Tag Archives: freedom religion

Indonesian Church Struggles Continue

Indonesia historically has been a nation in which religious freedom is practices and welcomed by the vast majority of inhabitants but there have been several recent incidents in which Islamic militants have exerted pressure on local authorities to halt the practice of non-Muslim religions. Members of the Bible Oneness Church and the Protestant Batak Christian church had to pray this week at the site of their ruined church which was torn down by angry Islamic militants. Sanor Siagian, speaking for members of the congregation expressed their feeling: “we’ll be holding service here until the district head provides a new house of worship for us.”

The dispute began in 2005 when Islamic groups exerted pressure to have the church destroyed because it lacked necessary permits. The police intervened and assured the Christians they would be allowed to use the house of worship until a new site could be found. However, the church was destroyed and police authorities have delayed issuing the necessary permits. It is difficult reconciling Indonesia’s commitment to religious freedom with the bureaucratic rules that hamper the free expression of religion. Last week an “heretical” Muslim sect was closed down and told they had to alter their religious ideas to conform with the accepted Muslim version. These are ominous signs that freedom of religion in Indonesia is threatened.

Indonesian Hertic Jailed-What If They Are Wrong?

An Indonesian court has sentenced Ahmad Mushaddeq to a four year prison term for blaspheming the Islamic faith. Mushaddequ claims to be a prophet and has created the Al-Quiyadah Al-Islmiyah sect which has been subjected to continual attacks by those who regard its followers as heretics. The court ruled his claims to being another prophet was an act of hostility to the Muslim people of Indonesia. “His deeds have hurt the feelings of Muslims who make up the majority of this country’s population. Moreover, the defendant doesn’t seem sorry for his actions, as shown by his defense statement which cited his reasoning for establishing the sect. He was arguing, not repenting.”

Mushaddeq’s lawyer argued(better watch out for that word, arguing can get one into trouble in Indonesia) “The verdict is unconstitutional. The Constitution has guaranteed the freedom of religion. That should be between him and God. Does the judge thinkhe’s God?”

Mushaddeq believes he has been in communication with God who made him another prophet. I would assume every prophet in history was told by people of his time that he was an heretic. Shucks, what if he is the real thing and the rest of us are the heretics?

Religious Freedom Victories In Egypt!

Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court issued two decisions which strengthen the right to freedom of religion in their nation. In one ruling, the Court upheld the right of Coptic Chrisitians who had converted to the Muslim religion to change their mind and have their Christian identify listed on identify cards which are extremely important in Egypt for virtually any official document. Mamdouh Nakhla, a human rights activist said: “This opens the door of hope to hundreds of Copts.” In another decision, the Court ruled that members of the Bahai faith had the right to leave blank the indication of one’s religious faith which is required on official documents. At present, the only religions officially recognized in Egtypt are Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The only current way Bashais can got to school is to lie and say they are Christian or Muslim.

At first, these decisions appear to benefit Bahais and Christians, but there is a darker side to the problem. A Christian who switches back to his religion will have evidence of the change on an identify card. This will undoubtedly result in job discrimination.

Chinese Government Backs Religious Freedom– Sort Of!

Th Chinese Communist government has always struggled with issues of religious freedom given that a basic tenet of communism was opposition to the institution of religion. President Hu Jintao reaffirmed his government’s support for the principle of religious freedom, but buried in his words were some disturbing comments. “We shall carry out the Party’s policy,” he said, “of free religion…The Party shall reach out to religious believes and held them through their problems.” He urged those who believe in religion to be patriotic citizens and support the idea of a unified nation .

The essence of religious freedom is that government does not tell people what to believe nor does government provide assistance to help people “through their problems.” All governments hope citizens are patriotic, but the individual decides what constitutes being patriotic, not the government. The Chinese Communist government continues exerting a strong role in leadership of its nation’s Catholic hierarchy and does not accept the supremacy of the Pope in making religious decisions for members of his faith. Current religious policies of the Chinese government are not perfect, but they certainly are an improvement in what earlier Communist leaders regarded as the meaning of religious freedom.

Gay Rights Challenged In Chile Education Dispute

Chile’s Movement for Homosexual Integration and Freedom(MOVILH) criticized their nation’s Ministry of Education’s handling of the case of Sandra Pavez, a lesbian religion teacher who was denied teacher re-certification by the catholic Church. She lost her teaching credential after Church officials learned Pavez was a lesbian even though she had been teaching religion for 21 years at a public elementary school. A 1983 Ministry of Education decree requires all religion teachers to possess an aptitude certificate issued by a religious authority. The San Miguel Appeals Court ruled against Pavez’s claim that the Church’s refusal violated her constitutional rights.

At a meeting held between MOVILH and Church authorities, the Minister of Education failed to appear and together with the lackluster support given Pavez by government officials, it is apparent they do with to challenge the Catholic Church on such issues. MOVILH notes that recently the Ministry of Education took a strong stand to protect the right of teenage mothers to attend graduation ceremonies, but on an issue of sexual rights there is an unusual silence. Education Ministry official, Maria d la Luz Silva, said the Ministry is still seeking to meet with Pavez and MOVILH before making a decision on the case. MOVILH is using this issue to fight for new legislation that would remove the Catholic Church from deciding who can or cannot teach in public schools.

The United States has been lucky to avoid such confrontations because of our historic separation of church and state. To those who wish to allow religion to enter public schools, this case should come as an awareness of things that are best avoided.

Indonesian Muslim Clerics Demand Freedom Of Expression

Indonesia’s two largest Muslim organizations criticized the Religious Affairs Ministry for barring a liberal Egyptian Islamic thinker from addressing an international youth conference in East Java. Din Syamusuddin, Chair of Muhammadiyah, who is a noted professor of Islamic thought, commented: “his visit should have instead been used for tabayyun(clarification) with Abu Zayd to find the truth about his Islamic thoughts. We should have discussed this kind of issue in a forum or debate with broad-mindness and tolerance.” Abu Zayd has been attacked in Egypt for arguing the Koran should be regarded as a cultural document The leader of Nahdiatul Ulama, Masdar Farid Mas’udi, also expressed concern over the ban. “I am not interested in judging whether Abu Zayd’s Islamic thought is right or heretic… but I think it’s not wise to promote an excessive suspicion of new things considered to be violating the mainstream view.” Both men expressed dismay that the Indonesian government was allowing extremist Muslim groups to dominate a religious dialogue.

The American media attempts to portray Muslims as being completely under the control of extremist religious fanatics. Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world and its two largest Muslim organizations made a strong stand for religious freedom. Will their expressions of religious toleration be reported on Fox News?

Inonesian Police Crack Down On Liberal Moslem Group

Indonesia has a reputation for being a pluralistic society in which people of religions other than the dominant Muslim, can practice their beliefs without interference from authorities. In Western Sumatra, police were asked by a Muslim religious council to crack down on the Al-Wedayah Al Islamiyah sect which believes in freedom of religion for all people and respect for individual rights. A spokesperson for the Indonesian Inter-Community Study Center termed the police action unwarranted. To label, “a group’s teaching as blasphemous and then attacking them is against the Constitution.”

The struggle for religious freedom in Muslim nations is an ongoing one. Hopefully, this is a rare example of interfering with religious freedom in Indonesia. It is important for the world to know Muslim nations respect human rights and freedom of religion.