The Indonesian government continuously fails to protect the rights of the people to practice their religions or beliefs, especially when it comes to vulnerable minority groups, according to a recent survey.
Conducted by the NGOs coalition, Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), and supported by TIFA Foundation, a donor organization that promotes open society, the study highlights the recovery attempts of victims’ rights after their freedom of religion and belief were violated.
“We hope this research will not simply provide clear insights into the issue, but also a guidance to evaluate the works we did at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) while handling racism and discrimination against certain religion or ethnicity,” said Mohammad Choirul Anam, Commissioner at Komnas HAM, last week at Ashley Hotel, Jakarta.
Komnas HAM points out three serious cases of violation of the rights of religious minorities, Ahmadiyah Indonesia (JAI) followers in West Nusa Tenggara, the Shias in Sampang, and Gafatar (Fajar Nusantara Movement). Not only were they prohibited from practicing their beliefs, they were also abused and persecuted. Many have lost their homes, after local people vandalize and burned them down, forcing them to seek safety at inadequate shelters. They lost not only but their homes, but also their jobs, their rights to health care and to education. In addition, they lost their civil and political rights.
“Often recovery process only focuses on punishing the perpetrators, while neglecting their psychological states and their whole condition after being alienated or evicted from their homes. Based on this research, I underlined that almost all of the victims are not concerned about punishing attackers, but rather concerned about claiming back the rights that were taken from them,” said Muhammad Hafiz, researcher at HRWG.
The recovery of their rights should include restitution or giving back their rights to personal properties/belongings, citizenship (including ID cards, health insurance, and jobs); compensation for every economic loss; rehabilitation including legal service and psychologist; and guarantees of non-repetition to ensure that the same issues will not reoccur in the future.
The state is responsible to fulfill those rights, because it had failed to protect these people in the first place. However, in the three cases, the government has been abandoning and neglecting these victims of persecution.
Ahmadiyah followers, for instance, were promised that the government will recover all of their losses and recover their rights within 90 days, but in reality, they have been living in shabby shelters for over 11 years. So far, Ahmadiyah survivors have been issued ID cards and birth certificate, although they still bear the address of their shelters. They also already have the right to vote at elections.
“However, they still don’t have the Indonesian Health Card (KIS), Indonesian Smart Card (KIP), and rice aid (Rastra). We conclude that there are indication of abandonment by the government, despite the fact that in the last three years there are attempts from the ministry to recover their permanent rights, including offers to transmigrate or live at low-cost housing Rusunawa,” Hafiz explained.
Similarly, the Shia followers in Sampang live at shelters, while they try to recover their Family Cards, ID card, marriage certificate, and land ownership title. The challenge remains in the reconcilitation phase to return the evicted survivors to their homes in Sampang. In both Ahmadiyah and Shia cases, the followers are often forced to practice Islam the way the local people do it in order for them to be accepted again in the community.
The Gafatar organization was disbanded back in 2015 by its members, despite the fact that the members still maintain the bonds. “They were accused of treason yet none of their activities showed acts of separatism. Recovering their rights should include efforts to destigmatize them and change people’s prejudice towards them,” Hafiz added.
The eviction of ex-Gafatar was a huge blow, as it was done at the same time in West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan, totaling over 8,000 people getting thrown out of their homes. They were forced to leave their assets, many of which were claimed by other people, as the government made it difficult for them to reclaim their assets.
Choirul pointed at the 1965 blasphemy law as the root of the problem.
“If we want to guarantee and ensure these cases won’t happen again, we have to get rid of the root of the problem: PNPS No.1/1965,” he said, referring to the law. “The particular law has been used to justify persecution and criminalize innocent people, so, first and foremost, we have to impose a moratorium on the law. Without removing the law, religious-based violence will keep on happening,” said Anam.
Anam also added the significance of replacing the word “deviant” (sesat) with “different” to destigmatize minority groups in the country.
“The word ‘deviant’ can inflict and arouse persecution. Changing this term should be the main focus in religious dialogues. By using the word ‘different’, we can start to accept that people may uphold values that are not ours, and it’s important to respect that,” he said.
The law was originally made to force followers of traditional beliefs into choosing one of the acknolwedged religions in the country: Islam, Christianity, or Catholicicm, Hinduism and Buddhism, he said, and it is no longer relevant in today’s society.
Idfhal Kasim from the Office of Presidential Staff admits the lack of government intervention in these issues.
“Our court does not accommodate enough in ensuring the rights of these victims, and it has something to do with the tendency to consider these victims as law breaker. We should instead address the violation such as house-burning, killing, assaults, and discrimination, instead of punishing innocent people based on our personal views of moral values,” said Ifdhal.
Echoing Ifdhal, Riri Khariroh from the National Commission on Violence against Women highlights the impunity issues.“Our state has not been entirely consistent in upholding the laws and constitution. The government has ignored the persecution for too long. They could not even simply say, ‘You cannot burn people’s house because they have different belief.’ As a result, we are ‘harvesting’ these long ignored problems. It’s about time that the state firmly says: ‘This is a violation!’”
Other than revising the discriminative laws, the government should also make sure that law enforcement officers are well informed of citizen’s constitutional rights and do not violate them further.
“We should stop the trend of making minority issues a political commodity,” Riri added.
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