The Jakarta Post
Newly-installed Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo is pushing local government officials to allow adherents of non-officially recognized religions to not state their beliefs on official documents.
Speaking at his office on Thursday, Tjahjo called on local officials to abide by the law on civil administration, which mandated equal treatment for believers of indigenous faiths.
'Don't force people [to choose one of the six religions]. Do not let anyone feel compelled [to choose one of the recognized faiths],' Tjahjo said.
Tjahjo, a politician with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), also urged officials to give equal treatment to those who wished to have the religion column on their ID cards left blank.
'If they wish to do it just allow them to. Don't impose any religion on them. It's up to the people [to fill in the religion column on the identification card],' Tjahjo said.
The government currently recognizes only six organized religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, the last of which was added in 2000.
Recognition of only the six faiths has led to discrimination against subscribers of non-official religions and indigenous faiths.
Civil rights groups have called on the House of Representatives and the government to recognize non-official faiths to allow their adherents to get equal treatment by civil administrations.
The call fell on deaf ears when lawmakers and the government pressed ahead with an amendment to the 2006 Civil Administration Law, which continued to impose a ban preventing adherents of non-recognized religions from putting their faiths on their ID cards.
According to data collected by the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), there are around 245 non-official religious organizations across the country.
Although Article 64 of the law clearly states that 'citizens whose faiths are yet to be recognized as religions must not state the faith, still they must be served and registered in the administration database', many, particularly in rural areas, continue to be coerced by local officials to choose one of the six recognized faiths.
Dewi Kanti, a follower of Sunda Wiwitan, a native religion of the Sundanese, told The Jakarta Post that until today adherents of that faith could not leave the religion column on their ID cards blank.
'Our friends in Majalengka had to convert to Confucianism. Meanwhile, officials in Tasikmalaya [West Java] declined to provide administrative services to some of us because those officials insisted that the state only recognized six religions,' Dewi said.
Dewi said followers of the indigenous faiths of the country would never enjoy freedom of worship if the government insisted on the inclusion of religion on ID cards.
'The government always touts local wisdom, but it fails to recognize the groups that adhere to such local wisdom and ignores rampant discrimination against them,' she said.
During the press briefing, Tjahjo said he was aware of such problems and hinted that an amendment to the Civil Administration Law was possible.
'For the time being, you have the option to leave it [the religion column on ID cards] blank. We are still discussing the problem with the religious affairs minister because we must amend the law if we want to accommodate more,' Tjahjo said. 'And it must be conducted gradually.'