Looking for an Equal Position of Religious Minorities in Indonesia

The government is urged to give recognition and equal position to all religions and beliefs in the country, both native to the archipelago and from outside, who live and have people. The pressure was raised because the government only officially recognized six religions.

The Javanese Sunda religion (ADS) or better known as Sunda Wiwitan, is one of the local religions of the archipelago. This religion was taught by Prince Sadewa Madrais Alibasa Kusumawijayaningrat who was born in 1832. Starting in 1885, in the midst of Dutch colonialism, Prince Madrais began to teach religious values, in Cigugur, Kuningan, West Java. This location has until now also been the center of ADS studies.

A prayer ceremony in front of a bunch of freshly harvested rice at Prince Djati Kesuma's Cigugur Palace, decorated with freshly harvested fruits in the traditional week-long annual harvest ceremony known as "Seren Taun" in the village of Cigugur, West Ja

Prayer ceremony in front of a bunch of freshly harvested rice at Prince Djati Kesuma’s Cigugur Palace, decorated with freshly harvested fruits in a week-long traditional annual harvest ceremony known as “Seren Taun” in Cigugur village, West Java

The misunderstanding about ADS in the community that still exists today is the legacy of the political division of the Netherlands. Ira Indrawardana, a lecturer at Padjadjaran University, said Madrais’ role in the resistance against the colonialists underlies the Dutch campaign against them.

“It could be that the legacy of colonialism is still there. Because during the Dutch colonial period, their legacy when they left Indonesia were people who had a perspective of being happy to fight each other,” said Indra, who also conducted studies related to ADS.

Outside the Ministry of Religion

It is not only some Indonesians who have a negative perspective on ADS, even the government has not been completely straight. In the discussion on Knowing the Religion of Java and Sunda, which was held by the Nusantara Institute on Saturday (25/9), this issue was also mentioned.

Although the Constitutional Court (MK) decided that the position of religion and belief was equal in Indonesia, the treatment they received was different. Among other things, this condition was told by Dewi Kanti, the great-grandson of Prince Madrais who also spoke in this discussion.

Goddess Kanti.  (Photo: Courtesy/Komnas Perempuan)

Goddess Kanti. (Photo: Courtesy/Komnas Perempuan)

“When religion and belief are equal, then the service is in the same ministry. Not in different ministries, with unequal levels. At the Ministry of Religion, it is managed by a director general. If you trust friends, you think it’s only enough to be managed by one level below the Director General,” said Dewi, who is also a member of Komnas Perempuan 2020-2024.

In Indonesia, six officially recognized religions are fostered by the Ministry of Religion. Meanwhile, the belief systems outside the six religions are positioned under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology.

“How are we going to promote the principles of justice and equality if it is not implemented in an equal policy,” added Dewi.

The tomb of the Sunda Sundanese Ancestors (AKUR) in Cisantana Village, Kuningan Regency, West Java is sealed.  (Photo: Special/Dewi Kanti)

The tomb of the Sunda Sundanese Ancestors (AKUR) in Cisantana Village, Kuningan Regency, West Java is sealed. (Photo: Special/Dewi Kanti)

According to Dewi, this aspiration is within the framework of the constitution as mandated by the Constitutional Court. In 2017, the Constitutional Court did state the recognition of equality for religious people and believers in bureaucratic services. Equality, continued Dewi, positions the state regarding the administrative process, and there should be no rejection. Services must be provided in accordance with the religion or belief recognized by each citizen, when accessing bureaucratic services.

“The state only protects, records all events that have legal consequences. Because even though it goes through the administrative entrance on the ID card, it has a long impact. For example, regarding marriage registration or making birth certificates,” he added.

Indonesia, said Dewi, should be more open in acknowledging the existence of religions outside of the Abrahamic religion. Religion that was born in the archipelago is also not a threat to the official religions recognized by the government. In fact, according to Dewi, the Abrahamic religion developed in Indonesia because adherents of the local religion gave tolerance when they came and spread it.

The Tenggerese throw offerings into the crater of Mount Bromo volcano in Probolinggo, East Java on June 26, 2021, during the Yadnya Kasada festival to seek blessings from the gods by offering offerings of rice, fruit, livestock and other items.  (Photo

The Tengger tribe throw offerings into the crater of Mount Bromo volcano in Probolinggo, East Java on June 26, 2021, during the Yadnya Kasada festival to seek blessings from the gods by offering offerings of rice, fruit, livestock and other items. (Photo

Religion of the Inner Region

The Bahai religion, which comes from the Middle East, also does not have an equal position in Indonesia. Even the Naw Ruz holiday greeting delivered by the Minister of Religion last July 2021 also became a polemic.

A Bahai religious researcher from the Kudus State Islamic Institute (IAIN), Dr Moh Rosyid, said the state should not be able to deny religious people their rights.

Dr Moh Rosyid, lecturer at IAIN Kudus.  (Photo: Courtesy/IKED Kudus)

Dr Moh Rosyid, lecturer at IAIN Kudus. (Photo: Courtesy/IKED Kudus)

“Because religion is an inner area, so the state has no right to intervene in the form of denial of their rights,” said Rosyid when contacted FLY.

Last year, the results of Moh Rosyid’s lengthy research on the Bahai religion, particularly in Central Java, were published in a book entitled Dialogue of the Bahai Religion.

Throughout his research, Rosyid found many incidents where Bahai people were discriminated against by the state. He gave an example, the Bahai people in Pati Regency, Central Java, when they were married religiously, the marriage documents submitted to the local Population and Civil Registration office were rejected.

“The reason is that there are no instructions for implementing the service. Whereas the Minister of Religion Lukman Hakim Syaifuddin in July 2014 had sent a letter to the Minister of Home Affairs, so that the Bahai people were served their population administration rights, as mandated by Articles 28-29 of the 45 Constitution,” said Rosyid.

In the New Order era, a school principal in Pati was also not sworn in, even the Decree (SK) of his appointment was annulled, because he was known to be a Bahai community. At the beginning of the reformation era, a Bahai devotee who died was also refused to be buried in the village cemetery. This refusal prompted the village to provide a special Bahai funeral.

The Bahai religion is indeed a very minority in Central Java. In the North Coast area on the east side that Rosyid studied, there were only about 27 adherents, in nine families. They became Bahai adherents, after one of the family members in the 70s was assigned as a teacher in Rembang Regency.

The terrace of a Bahai religious temple on Mount Carmel in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, on June 24, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)

The terrace of a Bahai religious temple on Mount Carmel in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, on June 24, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)

Once upon a time, Bahai doctors did a malaria treatment social activity. From that intensive meeting, the teacher later embraced Bahaiism, and became the first in the region. Until now, the Bahai in this area, only came from one big family of the teacher.

“They do not have a place of worship, because they have to comply with the Decree of the 3 Ministers, so when they worship and pray in their respective homes. Once every 40 days, they do a collective prayer in a routine meeting,” said Rosyid.

Although administrative services are treated differently, Rosyid assesses that the harmony between the Bahai people and other religious communities in the region is very good. They do acculturation, so that the Javanese tradition is included in a number of activities. Likewise, they are also involved in the traditions of the local people, the majority of whom are adherents of traditional Islam.

Dukun Tengger prays during the Kasada Festival at Mount Bromo in Probolinggo, Indonesia's East Java province, August 1, 2015. Villagers and worshipers throw offerings such as cattle and other plants into the crater of Mount Bromo's volcano to pray

Dukun Tengger prays during the Kasada Festival at Mount Bromo in Probolinggo, Indonesia’s East Java province, August 1, 2015. Villagers and worshipers throw offerings such as cattle and other plants into the crater of Mount Bromo’s volcano to pray

“When a Muslim neighbor dies and has a tradition of reciting the death prayer or tahlil, the Bahai people come to attend the prayer. It’s just a Bahai prayer,” said Rosyid giving an example.

Rosyid reminded that in 2018, the Ministry of Religion had stated that it would record religions other than the six recognized by the government. Furthermore, a separate Directorate General will be formed. However, so far this plan has not materialized.

“It is better if the state protects all religions. Any religious teachings, as long as they do not conflict with the law,” concluded Rosyid. [ns/ah]

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