Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Indonesia

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Indonesia, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a7eae53c.html [accessed 12 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Rising religious tension in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority state in the world, was reflected in the May 2007 report of the US Commision on International Religious Freedom. The state was placed on the Commission's 'watch list' for countries that require close monitoring, highlighting the Indonesian government's inability or unwillingness to hold those responsible for religious violence to account, and the growing political power and influence of religious extremists in Central and South Sulawesi. At least nine Protestant churches, four Ahmaddiya mosques and one Hindu temple have been closed or damaged in areas of West Java, North Sumatra, South Sulawesi and West Nusa Tenggara as a result of the influence of 'extremist' groups, which incited mobs and/or intimated local officials in the last year, said the report.

In July 2007, 17 Christians were jailed under anti-terrorism laws for the murder of two Muslims. According to International Crisis Group, the two Muslim fishmongers were attacked in Poso, Sulawesi, in September 2006, by a mob angry at the execution in the same year of three Christians convicted of leading a group that killed hundreds of Muslims at a boarding school during inter-religious violence in Poso in 2000.

In its August 2007 report the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern that under Indonesian law individuals are obliged to mention their faiths on legal documents such as identity cards and birth certificates, and that those wishing either to leave the document blank or to register under one of the 'non-recognized' religions, reportedly face discrimination and harassment. CERD also noted that couples involved in interfaith marriages face great difficulties in officially registering their marriages, and that their children are not provided with birth certificates.

Oil palm development is one of the most significant new investments in Papua. The Indonesian government plans to establish up to 5 million hectares of new plantations in the state by 2012 in a drive to increase biofuel production. According to a July 2007 International Crisis Group report, these plans have raised discrimination concerns relating to indigenous property rights and deforestation in the absence of a clear legal framework for customary land rights, as well as the prospect of an influx of large numbers of non-Papuan settlers.

Environmentalists called on CERD to intervene in a megaproject being planned in Kalimantan (Borneo), which will allocate up to 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) of land for oil palm plantations; they fear that the project will cause irreparable harm to indigenous people's territories and cultures. The area covers the ancestral territory of between 1 million and 1.4 million Dayak indigenous people. CERD responded by recommending that the government 'secure the possession and ownership rights of local communities before proceeding further with this Plan'. It also said that the state should ensure that meaningful consultation with the communities, with a view to obtaining their consent and participation, should take place.

Oil palm plantations and the ensuing floods that at times accompany deforestation are an increasing threat for Dayak communities, who are unable to effectively oppose these schemes. There are continuing reports of the army having been used to intimidate anti-logging Dayak activists and to protect loggers, or of community leaders being swayed by bribes or intimidation to approve these plantations.

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