“Keeping the Faith” Roadshow in Bandung Discusses the Role of the State in Upholding Freedom of Religion in Indonesia and Other Multi-Faith Countries

Bandung, 11 May 2015—Today the Human Rights Resource Centre, together with the Community for Human Rights of the Law Faculty of Padjadjaran University (PAHAM FH UNPAD), held a discussion on the role of the state in protecting freedom of thought, conscience and religion (FOTCR) at the Law Faculty of Padjadjaran University in Bandung. This event is part of a series of workshops for the dissemination of “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN.”

The event was attended by representatives from civil society organizations and local offices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs from a number of regions in West Java as well as academicians and university students.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Gusman Siswandi, Director of Cooperation of Padjadjaran University Law Faculty, noted the importance of holding discussions and encouraging healthy discourse on freedom of religion among various stakeholders. Ms. Faith Delos Reyes, HRRC’s Research and Project Coordinator, shared the main findings of “Keeping the Faith” with regard to the general trend of freedom of religion and belief in the region. She outlined three main factors that threaten FOTCR in a number of ASEAN member countries, namely politicization of religion, ethno-religious nationalism, and weak rule of law. She noted that ASEAN Member States regulate religion differently, but “what is crucial in preventing religious intolerance and persecution is the state’s commitment and ability to afford all groups with equal protection,” she emphasized. “It is necessary for a state to balance the interests of different groups through rule of law.”

The Director of PAHAM FH UNPAD, Dr. Susi Harjanti, focused on the legal system in Indonesia, stating that “the concept of human rights will be meaningless without the instrument to implement it.” She pointed to the need for good legal drafting and consistency among the legal instruments in Indonesia. Particularly on freedom of religion, Dr. Harjanti stressed the importance of dialogue in order to formulate the best way to protect this freedom in Indonesia.

Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, Director of the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies (CRCS) at Gadjah Mada University and author of the Indonesia country report in “Keeping the Faith,” concurred that “Discussions on different interpretations of legal and religious concepts are necessary, and a legal system should accommodate rather than restrict such discourse.” Dr. Bagir also reflected on the condition of FOTCR in Indonesia post 1998 and the international discourse on human rights. “Protection of freedom of religion should not be hindered by discussions or objections based on conceptual critique of the international human rights regime. It is clear that there are victims of discrimination and persecution, and the state should not fail to protect them.”

“Keeping the Faith” was produced with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta. The HRRC also receives support from the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, the East West Center, and the University of Indonesia. The roadshow kicked off during the ASEAN People’s Forum in April in Kuala Lumpur. This month, the HRRC will be hosting discussions on 13 May at the Depok Campus of University of Indonesia, 15 May at Udayana University in Bali, and 30 May at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta.