Discrimination against Christians regarding the building of houses of worship in Inodnesia

Christians, Shiites and Ahmadiyyah demonstrate together for more religious freedom

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) accuses the Indonesian authorities of discriminating against the Christians regarding the building of houses of worship. Although most mosques and churches of the island state – which is predominantly Muslim – were built without a building permission, only the Christian churches and mosques of the Ahmadiyyah are being torn down for this reason, but not the Sunni mosques. "The unequal treatment by the authorities clearly shows how bad the situation regarding tolerance and the freedom of religion for the minority groups in Indonesia has become," said Ulrich Delius, the STP's Asia-expert, in Göttingen on Wednesday. "Given these alarming figures, Indonesia should finally simplify the approval process for the construction of new houses of worship, in order to protect the believers."

On Tuesday, the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia (Komnas Ham) asserted that 85 percent of the mosques and churches in the country were built without permission. Especially in the rural areas, there is often no legal basis. Since 88 percent of the people are Muslims, more mosques were built without permission than Christian churches. Nevertheless, being under pressure from religious extremists, the local authorities repeatedly decide to tear down Christian churches. Most recently, a church of the Protestant Batak community in Bekasi district (near the capital Jakarta) was torn down the week before Easter.

On April 4, a mosque of the Ahmadiyyah-Muslims was closed down by the authorities in the same district. Although 30 believers stayed inside the mosque to protest, the police cordoned off the building with barbed wire and an iron gate. Believers who tried to bring food to the Ahmadiyyah who were occupying the mosque were harassed and intimidated by the police. The Sunni Muslims in Indonesia don't consider the Ahmadiyyah to be Muslims, so they are systematically excluded from social life and must often fear for their lives or their property.

In Jakarta, about 300 Christians, Shiites and Ahmadiyyah formed a demonstration together on Monday – protesting against the escalating discrimination and the violence against the religious minorities and demanding their freedom of religion. In 2012, there were at least 264 violent attacks on members of the religious minorities in Indonesia.