Society for Threatened Peoples warns about growing religious intolerance in Indonesia - Religious and ethnic minorities need more protection and rights

Indonesia's President visits Germany (March 4th / 5th )

On the occasion of the visit of Indonesia's President to Germany (March 3rd – 6th), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) would like to draw attention to the growing religious intolerance in the south-east Asian country. The human rights organization appealed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to take up discussions with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: The freedom of religion must be respected and the ethnic and religious minorities need better protection. On Tuesday, Yudhoyono and Merkel will start off the international trade fair on tourism (ITB) in Berlin, as Indonesia is this year's partner country of the event.

"We are not only concerned about the increasing number of attacks by radical Islamists against people of different faiths, but also about the state tyranny against Christians, Ahmadiyyah, Bahai'i and Shiites," said the STP's expert on questions regarding Asia, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Monday. According to information by the STP, 264 attacks against non-Sunni religious communities were counted in Indonesia in 2012. Thus, the minority groups experienced even more restrictions of their religious freedom since last year. "The situation of the Ahmadiyya is especially difficult, because they are systematically marginalized by the authorities or treated as fair game," said Delius. There were also attacks against Christian houses of worship. Three Protestant churches in the province of South Sulawesi were attacked with Molotov cocktails in February 2013. In the Aceh region, 17 Christian churches were closed by order of the authorities as a result of protests by radical Islamists. Since then, about 15,000 believers are forced to hold their religious services on the streets or in private homes.

The STP is also concerned about the situation of several ethnic minorities. More than 40 million indigenous people and traditional forest dwellers in Indonesia are threatened by an expropriation of land and by the expanding oil palm plantations. The country is planning to increase its palm oil production from currently 25 million tons to 40 million tons before 2020. "The clearing is a threat to the existence of the indigenous forest people who have been living in the forests of West Papua and Kalimantan for generations," said Delius. Indonesia – already the largest palm oil producer in the world – is planning to open up another 60 million hectares of land for the production of palm oil by 2030. Papua had already cleared 142,000 hectares of land for new oil palm plantations in 2010 – and the authorities already have development plans for the clearance of another 1.5 million hectares.