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Indonesia: Faith is optional on e-ID card

The Home Ministry revealed on Tuesday it would allow citizens, especially subscribers of nondenominational faiths, to forgo declaring their religious beliefs on the electronic identity (e-ID) card, a move lauded by pluralism campaigners as a significant step toward ending discrimination against minority groups.

The director general for civil and citizenship administration at the Home Ministry, Irman, said the policy was an implementation of the 2006 Law on Civil Registration. “We still require citizens to disclose their religion when they apply for an e-ID card. However, those who subscribe to faiths other than the six official religions do not have to fill in the section on the application form,” Irman said on Tuesday.

Irman said that, in those cases, data from the application form would appear as a blank column on the e-ID. The government recognizes only six organized religions in the country: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, which was added in 1999.

The Wahid Institute’s director, Yenny Wahid, lauded the government’s policy but she said that the move was not progressive enough. She said that citizens should no longer be obliged to declare their faith on any identification documents, because a significant proportion of the country’s population did not adhere to the six faiths recognized by the government.

Yenny said declaring one’s faith would create administrative redundancy. “If the purpose is to collect data about the population, then information from the Central Statistics Agency [BPS] and the Home Ministry itself should be enough,” she said. Data from the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP) in 2005 showed that more than 400,000 people follow nondenominational faiths, or Kepercayaan Terhadap Tuhan Yang Maha Esa (Belief in One God), which is not officially recognized by the state.

According to the ICRP, there are around 245 nondenominational faith organizations across the country. These groups are under the supervision of the Education and Culture Ministry rather than the Religious Affairs Ministry, as they are categorized as mysticism or cultural concepts rather than religions.

Followers of nondenominational religions are discriminated against, regardless of the integrity of their beliefs. In 1973, calls increased for such beliefs to be given an equal footing with the then five officially recognized religions. However, the 1978–1982 State Policy Guidelines (GBHN) stated that a special ruling stipulated that Kepercayaan Terhadap Tuhan Yang Maha Esa was not to be recognized as a religion.

Marriage between believers of these faiths is illegal under the law; thus, couples are not entitled to obtain marriage certificates unless they convert to a state-recognized religion. If they refuse to comply with the law, children born in wedlock are nevertheless declared illegitimate. In 2006, the House of Representatives passed the Civil Registration Law which was considered a legal breakthrough as it initiated a reform of the country’s civil registration system.

Separately, the Badui community, a tribe that maintains a premodern existence in Banten province, has called for their indigenous religion, known as Sunda Wiwitan, to be declared on identification papers. “Since 2011, Sunda Wiwitan could not be entered as a religion on our ID cards because it was not recognized by the law,” Daenah, a senior figure in the Badui tribe, said as quoted by Antara.

Source: Jakarta Post

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