Indonesia’s “religious harmony” law has closed more than 1,000 Christian churches in the country.
According to Christianity Today, Indonesia passed the law in 2006. The law requires religious minority groups to have 60 signatures of approval from Christians and 90 signatures from other faiths before building a church.
“It shows the failures of the religious harmony regulation,” Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono told Foreign Policy. “It discriminates [against] minorities, thus making way for the majority, mostly Muslim hard-liners in Indonesia, to pressure the government to close down churches.”
In October, an Indonesian province saw violence after Muslims complained to officials that 10 churches there were illegally constructed. Authorities said the churches would be destroyed, but a mob arrived and burned down a church.
Another church tried to open a house of worship a few years ago, but it was accused of using false signatures, and its license was frozen.
In another case, a church earned approval from the local government to build a church, but permission was later denied. Officials shut down the temporary structure where the church had been meeting.
“We are doing more than just getting our church building,” church member Bona Sigalingging told the Global Post. “This is our attempt to keep Indonesia a country for all. Indonesia is not a country based on any one religion.”
According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch World Report, 80 percent of houses of worship in Indonesia do not have permits.
About 10 percent of Indonesia’s population is estimated to be Christian.
Publication date: November 16, 2015