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.
Indonesia,

Story by Fanny Syariful Alam. Edited by Maria Grazia Calarco
Published on December 10, 2023. Reading time: 4 minutes



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.

Reality Bites

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.

 


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Fanny Syariful Alam

Fanny Syariful Alam

Fanny Syariful Alam (He/Him) is a social activist, working voluntarily as Regional Coordinator for Bandung School of Peace Indonesia, a community for youth engagement in peace and human rights issues. He enjoys working with the youth for empowerment and knowledge transfer about social, politics, and human rights. He is also a writer and columnist for human rights issues. Please, feel free to contact him on [email protected] and read his work at https://www.insideindonesia.org/essay-our-home-together.

Topic: Liberation



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