This report is from the Solidifying Religious Freedom in Indonesia project, funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and is implemented from September 2017 – June 2019.
Although Indonesia is a diverse nation based on ideals of the Pancasila, recent years have seen significant increases in restrictions on freedom of religion and belief (FoRB), as well as inter-faith conflict and violence. Indonesia, a nation that historically prides itself on harmony and tolerance amongst its diverse religious and ethnic groups, has – in many locations – begun to experience an erosion in freedom of religion and belief, materialized through increasing intolerance – particularly towards the nation’s religious minorities. In 2018, Search for Common Ground implemented a public perception survey across seven major Indonesian cities to measure Indonesian citizens’ perception and opinions on the state of FoRB/tolerance, and how it is applied across the nation.
Results identified that although the theoretical perception and agreement with FoRB/ tolerance remains significantly high among Indonesia’s people, its application in everyday life is contradictory. Approximately 20-30% of citizens who agreed with the idea in theory, were much more hesitant to undertake FoRB/tolerant actions of even the simplest form. The role of the State also reflected this contradiction in the eyes of respondents, while there were also visible links between the influence of religious organizations and media (in particular social media) upon FoRB/tolerance perception. Efforts to overcome this theoretical-practical gap must focus towards inclusive engagement of the ‘vulnerable to intolerance’ sub-group (that make-up the 20-30% mentioned above), alongside continuously challenging the intolerant voice, and engaging religious leaders as the purveyors of ‘real’ news and context to their followers.