Escalating Attacks on Religious Minorities in Indonesia

May 16, 2013

A man looks on at a temporary shelter after being driven from his village following a deadly clash with Sunnis (Photo Credit: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images).
A man looks on at a temporary shelter after being driven from his village following a deadly clash with Sunnis (Photo Credit: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images).

Imagine a mob of 500 people with sickles and stones descending on your neighborhood, setting fire to houses, and driving you away from your jobs and community. This occurred in August 2012 in East Java, Indonesia, leaving one member of a Shi’a community dead and injuring dozens. At this time 168 people, including 51 children, are living in a temporary shelter. In the last two weeks, they have been denied clean drinking water and food supplies.

Some of the villagers had previously been harassed by local government officials who told them to convert to Sunni Islam if they wanted to return to their homes.  Now, after eight months, the Sampang district administration has agreed to the demands from anti-Shi’a groups to forcibly evict the Shi’a community from their shelter in a sports complex and remove them from Madura Island in East Java.

In the case of an Ahmadiyya congregation in Sukabumi, West Java, the mayor’s office informed the congregation that for “security reasons” they would have to hand over their building to the Indonesian Ulema Council and the Ministry of Religious Affairs or action would be taken against them. One month earlier, hundreds of members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a radical Islamist group in Indonesia, had gathered outside the building calling for it to be shut down. Should the Sukabumi Ahmadiyya place of worship be closed, it would become the fifth Ahmadiyya place of worship closed in West Java since early April.

In February 2013, five churches in Makassar, South Sulawesi were the target of arson attacks by unidentified persons using molotov cocktails. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, no one has been brought to justice for these attacks.

Amnesty International has expressed concern over the increasing attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia in the past few years. Despite commitments made in local and international laws, the Indonesian authorities are failing to protect religious minority groups.

The right to freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Indonesian Constitution. Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a state party, states that “this right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” and that “no one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”

As a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the government has an obligation to ensure the right of everyone to enjoy an adequate standard of living including adequate housing (Article 11.1) and the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Article 12).

In conjunction with this post, please take action. Please write immediately in English, Indonesian or your own language:

  • Calling on the authorities to halt immediately the threatened forced eviction of the Shi’a community from the sports complex where they are sheltering in Sampang, East Java;
  • Urging them to ensure the displaced Shi’a community have immediate access to essential services such as food, clean drinking water and health services;
  • Urging them to guarantee the safe, voluntary and dignified return of the Shi’a community to their homes, according to their wishes, and provide assistance to rebuild the homes that were damaged or destroyed; and
  • Calling on them to ensure that all those involved in the attack on the Shi’a community are speedily brought to justice in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness, without the imposition of the death penalty, and that reparations are provided to the victims.PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 25 JUNE 2013 TO:
    Governor of East Java
    Jl. Pahlawan No. 110
    Surabaya, East Java
    Fax: +62 31 355 7138
    Email: [email protected]
    Salutation: Dear GovernorHead of Parliamentary Commission III on Law, Security and Human Rights
    Gede Pasek Suardika
    House of People’s Representatives
    Kompleks Gedung DPR
    Jl. Gatot Subroto , Senayan, Jakarta,10270, Indonesia
    Email: [email protected]
    Fax: +62 21 571 5566
    Salutation: Dear Gede Pasek SuardikaAnd copies to:
    Director General for Human Rights
    Harkristuti Harkrisnowo
    Ministry of Law and Human Rights
    Jl. H.R. Rasuna Said Kav No. 4-5
    Kuningan, Jakarta Selatan 12950,
    Fax: +62 21 525 3095
    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. 

Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty International USA Southeast Asia Coordinator, contributed to this post.