Among the notable trends that defined 2016 in Indonesia was the growing sense of religious intolerance as evidenced by the number of reports on attacks on religious freedom across the archipelago.
Local and international headlines included stories on attacks on religious minority organisations, such as the bomb attack on a church and other religious places being ransacked, that led many to feel alarmed about the country’s commitment to tolerance.
While many will reason that this could be just the result of media sensationalizing their coverage on these headlines, statistics reveal that last year did actually see a considerable rise in religious intolerance in Indonesia.
In fact, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) confirmed that they received more complaints and reports on attacks on religious freedom last year 2016 than they did the previous years.
The head of Komnas HAM’s religious freedom commission Jayadi Damanik told the media early this week that they have received the third annual report on religious freedom in the country. Damanik said they received 97 complaints in 2016 as opposed to the 87 and 76 that they received in 2015 and 2014 respectively. While the figures do not necessarily reflect the actual number of violations committed, the Komnas head explained the numbers are still alarming.
The report revealed that West Java had the highest number of complaints recorded with 21 and Jakarta follows with 19. In North Sulawesi, only one complaint was filed in 2015 while 11 complaints were received last year.
The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace also conducted a study in 2015 that showed it most of the cities that are least religiously tolerant were in West Java.
Majority of the reports received involved groups banning, prohibiting access to or destroying places of worship, and most of these attacks on religious places of worship were aimed against followers of Christian churches and the Ahmadiyah minority group.
The complaints filed were generally directed at local governments that, instead of protecting religious freedom as they should, allowed or worked on undermining them.
It is hoped that the latest reports on the rising attacks on religious freedom will be instrumental for the Indonesian government to see the severity of the issue and take preventive measures to ensure such incidents do not continue to happen again.