Segregation Between Religions and Belief Systems in Indonesia

Religions and Belief System

Religions? Belief Systems? 

The word religion is broadly interpreted as a belief system that relates humanity with spirituality, human and God. Now, imagine if your belief system that worships God is not considered a religion. Can your God be considered a God then?

This segregation between religion and belief system, which might seem like a small problem, is a huge issue that has been going on in Indonesia for decades. It has been around for so long that many people are not even aware of it.

Officially, the government only recognized six religions which are: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. The six of these are not the only belief systems in Indonesia though.

It is approximated that there are around 20 million people in Indonesia that follows two hundred different indigenous religions. Well, indigenous religion might not be the correct term for them.

How This Chaos Begins 

In 1965, Indonesia’s government passed a bill concerning religion misuse and blasphemy. This bill became the basis of the separation between religions and local belief systems. The belief systems that are not considered religions are then discriminated against and ended up being regarded as local customs.

Furthermore, Indonesia’s national ID card requires a person’s religion to be written in it and only the six aforementioned religions are approved for use. Now, what became of the followers of these disregarded belief systems?

They are forced to register as a follower to one of the six religions they don’t even believe in. Even though this section in the national ID card may be left blank, those who left them blank are pressured to join one of the religions.

Yes, It’s Bad Down Here 

Even numbers reflect this pressure that is exerted towards the followers of local belief systems. It is mentioned earlier that around 20 million people follows belief systems other than the six religions, yet according to government data, only 0.04% of people are in this category.

With a population of 270 million people, 0.04% represents roughly only 108 thousand people. The rest of them had registered and been listed as followers of the six religions. This shows the amount of pressure put on them to convert is exorbitantly high.

It’s such a daunting thought, being raised in a community of people that has the same religion, only to be told when their older that their religion is unacceptable or even invalid. Not being able to proudly proclaim about something that they believe in is similar to having their identities taken from them.

Identity, Freedom, and Redemption 

These local beliefs rebranded as local customs. Many tourists sought after them as tourism attraction, and slowly they became as such. Truth is, they are not mere customs; their rituals are not mere traditions.

Those are the ways they have always praised their God; it has become a huge part of their identities. Many of the people have abandoned their beliefs out of fear of being ostracized, losing their identities and freedom in the process. It is unacceptable, but it happened.

It might already be too late to fix everything. This concept of religions and beliefs has been ingrained in Indonesia and in the eyes of the world. Is it still possible to redeem ourselves from this tragedy? Improbable, but everyone can stay hopeful. Hopeful that these people may reclaim their identity one day.

Penulis: Fabian Aditya Susanto