International Day of Tolerance: State Must Be Present in Protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief


November 16th is celebrated by the world community as the International Day of Tolerance and this year is the 23rd momentum since it was first formalized by the United Nations (UN) in 1996, or a year since the Declaration on the Principles of Tolerance by UNESCO. . The background of this Declaration is in response to the many cases of intolerance, discrimination, violence, and injustice that occur in parts of the world.

We view that the momentum of the International Day of Tolerance has an important meaning for the current conditions faced by the Indonesian people. This can be seen from at least two things. First, this momentum reminds and at the same time opens our awareness about the importance of strengthening the values of tolerance in the practice of life in society. It is important to realize that the Indonesian people are sociologically diverse or diverse in which they consist of various ethnic groups, religions, beliefs, races and so on. This diversity is the foundation of the founding of the Indonesian state, so it is important and needs to be maintained and cared for properly. Therefore, it is difficult not to say that there would be no Indonesia without diversity.

In that context, strengthening tolerance as a civic value becomes an important and key element to maintain and care for diversity. It is important to realize this in the form of an attitude of respect, acceptance and appreciation of cultural diversity, recognition of human rights and basic freedoms of every human being. Tolerance means accepting the fact that everyone, who is naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behavior, values, religion and beliefs, has the right to live in peace and be who they are.

Second, the growing practice of religious intolerance, especially those targeting minority groups. Intolerance is an attitude and action whose main motive is to prevent, hinder or limit efforts to enjoy the human rights and basic freedoms of others. This practice if it continues to be ignored and is not resisted and responded firmly not only to the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms as the basis for the protection of diversity, but also to undermine the foundation of the Indonesian state. Intolerance is the starting date for the development of radicalism and violent extremism and terrorism.

We consider that in the context of strengthening the values of tolerance, the state should show its presence positively in guaranteeing and protecting human rights, freedoms and various cultural expressions in society. One of the international and constitutional obligations carried out by the state is to guarantee and protect the freedom of religion or belief in society. So far, the widespread practice of religious intolerance cannot be separated from the attitude of the state which is often "absent" from its obligations and even the state is the perpetrator itself.

Guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion or belief in Indonesia still faces at least three levels of challenges: conceptual, social and legal. At the conceptual level, the concept of freedom of religion or belief is often seen as a concept born of Western tradition and not in accordance with the culture of Indonesian society. Efforts to promote religious freedom are often seen as ideas that campaign for freedom without boundaries.

At the legal level, disharmony of the rule of law and policies develops. There are rules that guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief, but on the other hand there are rules and policies that are otherwise threatening and are maintained. In addition, law enforcement against various violations of KBB is still not maximally carried out by the apparatus. Not infrequently the policies made by the government are biased "majoritarianism", accommodating the will of religious groups because of the majority and ignoring the principles and normative standards of human rights, thus discriminating and excluding the rights of members of minority groups.

This law enforcement problem arises because the existing laws and regulations put more emphasis on the limitation of religious freedom, such as Law no. 1 PNPS 1965 concerning Prevention of Religious Abuse/Defamation, 3 Ministerial Decrees of 2008 concerning Ahmadiyah, 2 Ministers' PBM of 2006 concerning Houses of Worship and the existence of various regulations in the regions such as Governor/Regent's Decrees, Regional Regulations or SKBs that limit the religious freedom of minority groups. These regulations in many reports have been proven to fail to guarantee the right to freedom of religion and are even used by intolerant groups to legitimize the practice of intolerance to minority groups.

This is evidenced by the continued occurrence of acts of intolerance and violations of KBB ranging from closing houses of worship, disbanding worship activities, misleading and spreading hatred in the name of religion, regulations requiring the use of certain religious attire in public schools and so on. The impact of the situation is that some people, such as religious minority groups, cannot exercise their religious freedom safely. Not even a few fatalities were born as a result of the KBB violations and intolerance.

In the past year, there have been 31 cases of intolerance or violations of freedom of religion and belief spread across 15 provinces in Indonesia. The types of cases of intolerance also vary, ranging from the prohibition of the establishment of houses/places of worship, the prohibition or disbandment of rituals/recitations/lectures/the implementation of religious/belief worship, the prohibition of the celebration of certain ethnic cultures, the destruction of places of worship, to the refusal to be neighbors with those who not of the same religion. The most common forms of violations found were the prohibition or disbandment of rituals/recitations/lectures/the implementation of religious/belief worship, with 12 cases.

Meanwhile, the perpetrators of acts of intolerance or violations of the right to freedom of religion and/or belief are mostly carried out by local residents who are mobilized by certain religious organizations or groups, with a total of 28 cases. Perpetrators of acts of intolerance or violations of freedom of religion and/belief are also carried out by government/state officials, either in the form of prohibiting religious activities or revocation of permits to build places of worship in 4 cases. For more details, data on cases of intolerance or violations of freedom of religion and/belief can be seen in the table below:

Number Type of Violation Total Case
1. Prohibition or dissolution of rituals/ recitations/ lectures/ implementation of religious worship/ beliefs 12 kasus
2. Prohibition on the construction of houses/places of worship 11 kasus
3. Destruction of places of worship 3 kasus
4. Prohibition on the celebration of certain ethnic cultures (Cap Go Meh) 2 kasus
5. Regulations regarding dress procedures according to certain religions by the government 1 kasus
6. Government appeals/circulations regarding certain religious sects 1 kasus
7. Refusal to be neighbors to those who are not of the same religion 1 kasus

From the brief reading above, we urge:

  1. The government immediately revokes or revises laws and regulations and policies at the national and local levels that limit the right to freedom of religion or belief;
  2. Encouraging firm and fair law enforcement against intolerant perpetrators to prevent the potential recurrence of acts of intolerance;

Jakarta, November 17th, 2019

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