78th year of Indonesia’s Independence: Who Owns Independence and Who Misses Out?
Ideally, our State Constitution will accommodate the rights and duties of all Indonesians as citizens. However, despite the Government’s symbolic ceremony of Independence Day, I feel sad to see that some religious minorities have clearly not enjoyed their independence in their worship.
August 17th is Independence Day in Indonesia, and I have always welcomed this day with happiness. Every Indonesian celebrates this national holiday with various fun activities and traditional games. The official ceremony of raising and lowering the Red and White Flag takes place at the State Palace in Jakarta, the official residence of the President of Indonesia, and is mirrored locally by public officials in every province. This ritual is a sign of pride and respect for all who struggled to attain independence for the country and freedom from colonialism.
Indonesia has been an independent country for 78 years. Since the end of colonialism, I believe that Indonesia has become a more prosperous country, and many Indonesians have more enjoyable lives. The Indonesian Constitution states that independence is a right of every nation, and any colonization should be eradicated. Furthermore, the Constitution protects Indonesians from the risks of the violation of their human rights.
Although the Constitution affirms that the state protects human rights, this is not acted upon thoroughly. At least, that’s what some of my friends have felt, especially regarding their religious rights, which are often violated, even by the local government apparatuses and local societies. I talked to Dini, a young woman representing Ikatan Jemaat AhlulBait (IJABI), an organization of Shia Muslims in Indonesia. She said that before 2018, the ceremony of Ashura used to be conducted safely with no disturbances from the public and apparatuses. However, the situation has changed, added Dini, as there has been a rise in public opposition to the religion. Ashura is now often denounced as heresy, encouraging the persecution of the Shia during the ceremony.
Another Islamic group considered deviant in Indonesia is Ahmadi. Sabeh, a young Ahmadi activist, said that persecution of the Ahmadi groups is now rampant in Indonesia. He underlined how the local government in Garut, West Java, forbade renovating their mosque and closed it. The West Java province imposed the restriction of Ahmadi teaching for the public. This regulation, said Sabeh, justifies the Ahmadi mosque closure and the Ahmadi followers’ activities openly.
Unfortunately, many followers of indigenous religions and beliefs have faced similar stories to the two mentioned before. Nanda Shelly Susanti, my partner in Bandung School of Peace Indonesia, mentioned that Indonesia has already recognized the rights of indigenous beliefs followers through the Supreme Court’s Decree. Nonetheless, many government apparatuses still discriminate against the existence of these religions and beliefs.
Who Owns Independence and Who Misses Out?
As my friend Nanda said, Indonesian Independence seems to belong only to whoever is part of the “religious majority group” – officially recognized religious groups or those that dominate political spheres in the country. Ideally, our State Constitution will accommodate the rights and duties of all Indonesians as citizens. However, despite the Government’s symbolic ceremony of Independence Day, I feel sad to see that some religious minorities have clearly not enjoyed their independence in their worship.
I believe religious freedom in Indonesia will occur through constant pressure from individual citizens and from government apparatuses whose duty it is to protect everyone’s religious rights, with no exception. It is important that our Government treats Indonesian citizens fairly in regard to their rights, especially their religious rights. Doing this means loudly supporting the cause of Indonesian independence without undermining groups considered minorities. I believe if we achieve this goal, that would truly be independence for all.
How does this story make you feel?
Do you have any questions after reading this story? Do you want to follow-up on what you've just read? Get in touch with our team to learn more! Send an email to [email protected].
Talk about this Story
Please enable cookies to view the comments powered by Disqus.
Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter
Stay up to date with new stories on Correspondents of the World by subscribing to our monthly newsletter:
A story by Yess
A Tale of Two Countries: Part II
A story by Janina Cymborski
The perceived differences between East and West Germany are not merely rooted in the separation after World War II, but also in the events that followed the Unification. Though unity is an admirable goal, accepting differences may eventually lead to a greater appreciation. Read more...
Just Do It – My Story as a Filmmaker in the Slums of Nairobi
A story by Elijah Kanye
Explore other Topics
At Correspondents of the World, we want to contribute to a better understanding of one another in a world that seems to get smaller by the day - but somehow neglects to bring people closer together as well. We think that one of the most frequent reasons for misunderstanding and unnecessarily heated debates is that we don't really understand how each of us is affected differently by global issues.
Our aim is to change that with every personal story we share.
Correspondents of the World is not just this website, but also a great community of people from all over the world. While face-to-face meetings are difficult at the moment, our Facebook Community Group is THE place to be to meet other people invested in Correspondents of the World. We are currently running a series of online-tea talks to get to know each other better.