The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the right to worship according to one’s own beliefs but states citizens must accept restrictions established by law to protect the rights of others and to satisfy “just demands based upon considerations of morality, religious values, security, and public order in a democratic society.” In separate incidents, four persons received prison sentences ranging from 16 months to five years for violations of blasphemy laws. In Medan, a court sentenced an ethnic Chinese woman to 18 months in prison after she complained about the loudspeaker volume of a neighborhood mosque. In July the Constitutional Court dismissed a petition brought by members of the Ahmadi Muslim religious community to revoke the blasphemy law. In Aceh, authorities continued to carry out public canings for sharia violations, such as selling alcohol, gambling, and extramarital affairs. The governor issued a directive to end canings in public, over the strong objections of others in the government and society. The directive remained in effect, but no districts enforced it, due in part to the arrest and detention of the governor. Some local governments imposed local laws and regulations restricting religious freedom, such as local regulations banning Shia or Ahmadi Islamic practice. Ahmadi Muslims again reported incidents of forced conversion and discrimination. Media and human rights groups reported in December that Jakarta’s Prosecution Office launched a smartphone app called Smart Pakem allowing citizens to file heresy or blasphemy reports against groups with what the government considers unofficial or unorthodox religious practices. Religious groups outside the six government-recognized religions (Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Islam, the latter widely interpreted by the government and society to mean Sunni Islam), reported issues with identifying their religion on their national identification cards (KTPs), although a 2017 Constitutional Court ruling allows for such a listing. There were again instances in which local governments and police acceded to the demands of groups, such as the Islam Defender’s Front (FPI), Islamic Community Forum (FUI), Islamic Jihad Front (FJI), and the Indonesian Mujahideen Council (MMI), called “intolerant groups” in the media, to close houses of worship for permit violations or otherwise restrict the rights of minority religious groups. In September large protests erupted in Jambi, Sumatra, after officials there closed three Christian churches for not obtaining the appropriate permits. Both the central and local governments included elected and appointed officials from minority religious groups, and elected politicians from religious minorities served in majority Muslim districts. There was one Shia member of the national legislature.
In May a family of suicide bombers attacked three Christian churches in Surabaya within minutes of each other, killing 13 persons and injuring 40 others. In February a man with a machete attacked a Catholic congregation in Yogyakarta and injured four persons, including the church priest. Also in May a mob destroyed several houses and attempted to expel the Ahmadi community from a village in West Nusa Tenggara. In March an unknown group vandalized a Catholic church in Sumatra. Many prominent civil society representatives, including religious organizations from all faiths, worked to counter religious intolerance and promote pluralism and tolerance of minority religious groups.
The U.S. government advocated for religious freedom at the highest levels, with both government and civil society leaders, and spoke out publicly against discrimination and violence against minority religious communities. The Department of State Coordinator for Counterterrorism visited Jakarta in September and met with local religious leaders to discuss ways to combat violence against religious groups in the country. Embassy and consulate officials engaged government officials on specific issues, including actions against religious minorities; closures of places of worship and access for foreign religious organizations; convictions for blasphemy and defamation of religion; the importance of tolerance and rule of law; the application of sharia to non-Muslims; and religious identification requirements on national identification cards. The U.S.-Indonesia Council on Religion and Pluralism – endorsed by both governments and comprising religious and civil society leaders, academics, and experts from both countries – met with visiting U.S. government officials to discuss religious freedom issues. The embassy and consulates carried the message of respect for diversity and religious tolerance to tens of millions of people in the country through outreach efforts, including events, media interviews, social media initiatives, digital and public speaking engagements, youth exchanges, and educational programs.