In 2006, Indonesia passed a law requiring minority religious groups to collect signatures from the local majority group before building houses of worship. For instance, when Indonesia’s largest Protestant organization decided to build in a suburb of Jakarta, it was required to secure signatures of approval from 60 Christians and 90 people from another faith.
Since the passage of this “religious harmony” bill, which was touted by lawmakers as a long-term solution to religious conflicts, more than 1,000 Indonesian Christian churches have closed. Others have never been built.
“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.”
Just last month, the law sparked violence that eventually scared about 8,000 Indonesian Christians from their homes in Aceh province. In the country’s only province which follows Shari’ah law, Muslims had complained to authorities that 10 houses of worship lacked building permits and were illegally constructed, reported World Watch Monitor.
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