Beranda Pustaka Blog Justice For Believers

Justice for Believers

Blog / Korban diskriminasi, intoleransi, dan kekerasan berbasis agama Mitra Payung : Lakpesdam PB NU, Yayasan Satunama

By: Nadya Rahmi S.

What comes to mind when hearing belief? The majority of us must define belief as faith in God Almighty. In this concept of God, it refers to faith in religious teachings that are recognized officially and lawfully in Indonesia. There are six recognized religions, namely Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. However, we realize that before the dogma of these religions were present in the archipelago, the community had recognized the concept of belief according to their own.

People who live united with nature certainly deify nature as a protector, also people who believe in the interference of their late ancestors in their good and bad fortune.

Then, what is called a belief? In this point of view people conceptualize the belief in what they believe to be a great power that influences their lives. In the Big Indonesian Dictionary (KBBI), it is explained that belief is an assumption or belief that something that is believed in is true or real and also has an understanding as a term for the religious system in Indonesia that is not one of the official religions in Indonesia. So, it can be concluded that the intended belief is something that is considered true, has a system and institutionalized, which is believed and given the faith by the community.

Supporter of this belief can henceforth be referred to as believers, in accordance with the terms embedded by the government. Believers who in KBBI means to believe in something and belief that means faith. In Indonesia alone, the number cannot be counted clearly. In the 2010 Population Census (SP2010), the belief of Indonesian people was successfully recorded as follows:

Based on data from the 2010 Population Census (SP2010), the number of believers in Indonesia can be stated to be relatively small. It was noted that the group of believers was only 299,617 people, or around 0.13 percent of the total population.

The figure was obtained by looking at the “other” category indicators as answers outside the six official religions. Although, in this SP2010 it is possible that believers register themselves with one of the official religious statuses. Unfortunately, the actual data of the number of belief followers in Indonesia is never valid. The Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemendikbud), for example, through the Directorate for Belief in God Almighty and Tradition, provides estimates of around 10-12 million believers throughout Indonesia.

In various regions in Indonesia, the spread of these believers is uneven. Believers usually have an umbrella organization. The movement is not strong and massive enough so that it still tends to be a local belief in an area. It is very rare for local believers in Sumatra to be found on the island of Java. According to the 2010 Population Census, data from believers organizations in Indonesia can be displayed as follows:

No Religion/Faith Amount
1. Islam 207.176.162
2. Kristen 16.528.513
3. Katholik 6.907.873
4. Hindu 4.012.116
5. Budha 1.703.254
6. Kong Hu Chu 117.091
7. Lainnya 299.617
8. Tidak Menjawab 139.582
9. Tidak Ditanyakan 757.118

Source: Badan Pusat Statistik/

The table above shows the number of believers organizations in Indonesia, the majority of which grow in Java. Central Java with 53 organizations, East Java with 50, DI Yogyakarta with 25, and DKI Jakarta with 14 organizations. This numbers constitute almost half of the total believer organizations in Indonesia.

From the data above, it can be seen that many believer organizations arise and sink. Which means that organizations are not fully active, many organizations are inactive for various reasons. Thus, this organization can be said to be a dynamic organization, that can arise and sink at any time. The dynamic nature of the group of believers is indeed obvious, even very reasonable and noted also by historian Dennys Lombard. In Nusa Jawa: Warisan Kerajaan-kerajaan Konsentris (1996: 139), it is mentioned that “spiritual associations often do not last long after their founder’s lifetime.”

The organization is a reflection of several schools of believers in Indonesia. No denying, there are still many more local beliefs followed by Indonesian people, but have not had any organizations or agencies/institutions that house them, they are only attached to the customs of the local community.

Although Indonesia recognizes that there is a difference, a diversity that is shown through the motto of the Unity in Diversity, differences in belief are still obstacles. Moreover, concerning local beliefs in Indonesia which are often assumed to be deviant, mystical, or occult behavior. The majority of people have the mindset that the right belief and faith are according to the recognized religion practices in Indonesia (six religions). Beyond that, it is considered a heresy and must be opposed.

With such a view of the community, actions and condemnations from the community that result in discrimination to the believers arise. Quoted from, it is said that the discrimination treatment comes from educational institutions, where education actually should introduce the values of diversity and equality to their students. Precisely in North Sumatra, case of discrimination against the believers among students was found.

Just called him Maradu, when he was in high school in 2001, Maradu often received unfair treatment because he acknowledged his identity as a Parmalim believer. He was required to attend Christian religious studies and fill in devotional books to get autographs and stamps from church officials as one of the conditions for getting grades.

“When I said I was Ugamo Malim, the book was slapped across my face. ‘There is no Ugamo Malim,’ he said,” explained Maradu.

Maradu claimed that he did not mind if he had to take religious lessons that he did not believe in. However, he felt he didn’t deserve to get discriminatory treatment as Parmalim. He was forced to accept the punishment for not filling out the service books from his school. It is difficult for Maradu to fulfill the obligation to come to church every Sunday and ask for a stamp and signature. While the rules from Ugamo Malim requires Maradu to help his parents work as farmers all day.

Another discriminatory treatment was also experienced by the believers of the Karuhun Sunda Wiwitan indigenous community in Cigugur, West Java, namely Dewi Kanti Setianingsih. When Dewi was about to get married in 2002, the request to register her marriage in the civil registry was not accepted, because marriage that could be registered to the state was marriage using legal religious laws in Indonesia, while Sunda Wiwitan’s beliefs had not been recognized by the state. As a result, Dewi’s marriage can only be registered in a traditional institution or the Karuhun Sunda Wiwitan community.

The problem started from the policy of leaving the religion column on the KTP empty for believers. This is regulated in Law No. 24 Year 2013 concerning Population Administration. Even though the population administration for residents of the believer groups is still served and recorded in the population database, the fact is that the provisions create discrimination.

Some examples of discrimination that occured to believers, summarized by include:

  1. Difficult to get Family Card (KK) and electronic ID (e-KTP)
  2. It is difficult to get a job because the religion column in the KK and e-KTP is left blank
  3. Difficult to access the right to social security
  4. Difficult to get a marriage certificate and birth certificate
  5. Families of Sapto Darmo believers in Brebes District were declined to be buried in a public cemetery because of the empty religious column
  6. Often the local government apparatus advises the believers to choose a religion outside their belief
  7. Many Marapu believer residents in East Sumba, Sumba Island, do not have a KK. For the sake of obtaining KK and e-KTP, they are forced to lie by writing down certain religions.

From the various examples of cases above, the most frequently occurring issues are administrative discipline. The data collection from KKs, e-KTPs, to the administration of certificates has been constrained because many believers are considered to have no religion and the belief has not been recognized by the state. The absence of official population records makes some of the believers civil rights disappear.

For example, in writing the birth certificate of a child with believer parents, the father’s name is not included, which means the child is counted as a child born outside of marriage, the law only recognizes the relationship of the child and mother. This can occur because the marriage of their parents cannot be registered legally to the civil registry because their parents are married according to their customary beliefs, meanwhile what can be registered in the civil registry is marriage according to the religious law acknowledged in Indonesia.

Not registering a marriage legally in the civil registry also creates pressure for couples, especially women, because if there is a domestic problem, it cannot be decided legally even though it violates the law. For example, domestic violence occurs, but the article that confines the perpetrators is not the article of domestic violence, but the article of persecution because it is considered to have no marriage base. Likewise with the adultery article. Couples who marry traditionally can be charged with adultery even though they are officially married because they cannot show legal proof from the state if they are married (marriage certificate).

Not to mention the stigma of the people who view the believers as atheists and not religious because of the empty column of religion on their KK and e-KTP. Difficulties happens in teaching and learning process in schools because lessons in schools demand to choose to study other religions in order to graduate as experienced by Maradu, also it is difficult to get decent job.

The events above illustrate how hard it is to be a believer in a country that is said to uphold differences. Like it or not, believers are more introverted and have more closed activities with their communities. Become apathetic because their civil rights as citizens are not recognized.

These believers have long been acknowledged by the government. However, measures that emphasize the support and protection of the government for the believers are lacking. Quoted from, President Soeharto’s speech reads:

“[…] On this occasion I would like to add an explanation on belief in God Almighty, which in reality is indeed part of our national culture. Belief in God Almighty is neither a religion nor a new religion because it does not need to be compared, let alone contrasted with religion.

The excerpt from President Soeharto’s state speech addressed in front of DPR-MPR session on 16 August 1978, when he appealed to the assembly, related to the proposal to conduct a coaching for believers within the Ministry of Education and Culture. At that time, Suharto considered that mentoring was important to be carried out because there was a belief which development was considered incompatible with the foundation of state philosophy.

The speech delivered by President Soeharto at the time showed the government’s awareness of the diversity of beliefs that exist in Indonesia. The support that flows, does not necessarily make it easier for the lives of believers in Indonesia to date. Until finally on 7 November 2017, four Indonesian citizens named Nggay Mehang Tana, Pagar Demanra Sirait, Arnold Purba, and Carlim won the lawsuit in the Constitutional Court (MK) about Article 61 paragraph (1), (2) and Article 64 paragraph (1), (2) Population Administration Act (Adminduk) which is considered detrimental to them. The Act mainly consists of emptying out the status in the religion column in the KK and e-KTP, which were originally to be replaced as believers. However, this certainly must be accompanied by a revision of the Population Administration Law which requires filling in the religious column.

Good news also comes from education world. Quoted from news page, starting in 2018, students of believers can also stand in line with students of other religions. They can take the National Standard School Examination (USBN) in the subject of the education of beliefs.

The first and only believer student who attended the USBN for education on beliefs was Adelia Permatasari, a student at SMA Negeri 1 Cilacap. Officially, new education for believers was legalized in 2016 with the issuance of Minister of Education Regulation No. 27 of 2016 concerning Education Services for Belief in God Almighty.

As the recognition of educational services for the believers, positive signals are increasingly visible from the Cilacap Education Office and schools that have students of believers. The number of schools that include beliefs education has also increased. Now, 14 schools from elementary, junior and senior high schools have opened education services of believers. This shows that schools in Cilacap are increasingly inclusive. In fact, because of their enthusiasm, there are schools that are willing to accommodate students attending other schools if the school does not serve education for believer students.

The attitude shown by the government in responding to the complaints of believers to achieve equality with other citizens should be appreciated. As a large nation, which recognizes diversity as a unifier, it should be taken by the government. This step is expected to open up further ways for the “independence” of the believers.

Believers make themselves exclusive not without any causes. They fear the threat of discrimination if they enter the community as explained above. However, it is hoped that with the role of the government through the decision of the Constitutional Court, the believers can feel freedom in their own country and get the fulfillment of their rights as citizens. The attitude of the government that encourages inclusiveness fosters the trust of believers that they are equal and as dignified as other Indonesian citizens.

This step taken by the government is expected to open the way for the followers of the faith to be able to freely and openly take part in the community without fear of discrimination. They can now determine attitudes about their own lives without the need for coercion or disagreement. Creating equal and equally dignified community environment takes time. We as a society at large can certainly support this because citizens’ rights are the same for every Indonesian citizen.

Maybe, there are still shortcomings in the government guaranteeing freedom. However, for the creation of harmony in life with Unity in Diversity, it is appropriate that we as citizens can broadly support, protect, and especially embrace our brothers and sisters of faith. Believing in what is believed to be true, is a right for all citizens.


This essay was written by Nadya Rahmi S. for essay writing competition organized by Program Peduli. The views of the writer do not reflect the views of Program Peduli.