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INDONESIA: Christian YouTuber sentenced to 10 years in prison for ‘criticizing’ Islam

Christian YouTuber sentenced to 10 years in prison for posting videos critical of Islam

By Anugrah Kumar

 

The Christian Post (09.04.2022) –  https://bit.ly/3vfYrmq – An Indonesian Christian YouTuber has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for posting a video that purportedly offended people across the Muslim-majority country.

 

Muhammad Kace, a former Muslim cleric who converted to Christianity in 2014 and had been uploading videos to YouTube criticizing his former faith, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Ciamis District Court in West Java this week.

 

On the day of his sentencing, Muslims surrounded the court demanding a harsher prosecution of the convert, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

 

Kace was arrested in Bali last August after he uploaded a sermon video in which he allegedly insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to UCA News, Muslim groups filed several complaints about that video in which he said: “Muhammad is unknown by God and is only known by his followers because he is surrounded by devils.”

When prosecutors demanded a 10-year jail term for him, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Jakarta-based rights group Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, noted that Muhammad Yahya Waloni, a Muslim convert from Christianity, was recently convicted of a similar offense against Christians but he received only five months.

 

Police allege that Kace uploaded at least 400 videos insulting Islam. And he did it intentionally to stir public unrest, chief prosecutor Syahnan Tanjung was quoted as telling the court. “This is outrageous, so it warrants a stiff sentence,” he said.

In jail, Kace was beaten and tortured by a police official named Napoleon Bonaparte, who was detained in the same prison due to a corruption case, ICC said, adding that Bonaparte forced Kace to eat his excrement.

 

Kace’s lawyer, Martin Lucas Simanjuntak, has said his client will appeal the sentence.

Andreas Harsono, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch Indonesia, told ICC. “Both Christian preacher Mohammad Kace and Muslim cleric Yahya Waloni need not to stay a single night in prison because of the toxic law.”

 

Timothy Carothers, ICC’s advocacy manager for Southeast Asia, said: “The right to speak one’s mind is essential and must be protected. This sort of treatment and punishment under Indonesian law is a shameful reality. As long as Indonesia continues to enforce religious harmony through regulation and prosecution, it will continue to achieve the opposite.”

 

The Southeast Asian country is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Its Constitution is based on the doctrine of Pancasila — five principles upholding the nation’s belief in the one and only God and social justice, humanity, unity and democracy for all.

However, there are many extremist groups in Indonesia that oppose Pancasila.

Churches often face opposition from groups that attempt to obstruct the construction of non-Muslim houses of worship.

 

Photo : Christians gather at a church for Easter mass on April 4, 2021, in Surabaya amid tight police security following the March 28 a bombing at the Makassar cathedral on Palm Sunday. | JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP via Getty Images

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website





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INDONESIA: Discrimination holds back religious minority children

Discrimination holds back religious minority children

By Andreas Harsono, Indonesia Research

 

Human Rights Watch (14.01.2022) – https://bit.ly/3g2fZLq – In December 2021, I had the chance to talk with a bright 14-year-old girl named Maria Tunbonat, a fifth-grader in a state school in Tarakan, North Kalimantan. Her father, Ayub, also joined the video call as we spoke about her school and her hobbies.

 

Maria has been a fifth-grader for three years because her teachers refuse to let her move on to the next grade. The reason? Maria and her family are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses originated in the United States during the 19th century but have since expanded worldwide. Now they have 510 congregations in Indonesia. The group said it had 8.7 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide in 2021.

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses have specific views on key Christian theological issues that make them unpopular with some members of the Christian establishment in Indonesia and elsewhere in the world. Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Indonesia between 1976 and 2001. In 2002, the Religious Affairs Ministry allowed them to register in Indonesia.

 

In November 2021, the National Commission for Child Protection revealed that Maria and her two younger brothers at SDN 51 state elementary school in Tarakan had been denied a passing grade since 2019 despite their excellent academic records.

Ayub told me that he, his wife and children, Maria, Yosua (grade 4), and Yonatan (grade 2) had converted to become Jehovah’s Witnesses in November 2018. It seemed like a simple conversion, but teachers at the local school disapproved, saying the children were “deviating from Christian teachings”.

 

In 2019, the school expelled them, saying the three siblings had refused to sing the Indonesian national anthem, Indonesia Raya. The siblings had joined school assemblies and stood with respect but refused to sing and salute the national flag in accordance with Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs.

 

“We do not venerate the cross or any other images,” the group’s website says.

 

Ayub filed a lawsuit against the school at the Samarinda State Administrative Court, saying that his children only “saluted God” but neither disrespected the anthem nor the flag. In September 2020, the Indonesian court ruled in favor of the children, allowing them to resume schooling after months of absence.

 

The siblings stayed in their same grades in 2020. According to the school principal, FX Hasto Budi, SDN 51 has 158 Muslim students, two Catholics and four Protestants, including the siblings. The school has a part-time teacher to teach Christianity classes, and Ayub agreed to enroll his children in those classes. In Indonesia, students take mandatory religious instruction based on their religion.

 

When I spoke to Budi, he told me that the three siblings had refused to sing “certain Christian songs” and thus the school failed them in their religion classes. Budi decided to hold them back from moving up to the next grade in 2022.

 

Indonesia’s 1965 blasphemy law “recognizes” only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Budi said he would allow the three children to advance in grades if the government changed the law to recognize Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

“If the Jehovah’s Witnesses claims to be under Christianity, then they must obey the guidelines from the Christian church,” he said. “The Religious Affairs Ministry has a legal explanation about Christian education.”

 

But this is a misreading of the blasphemy law. The explanation attached to the law states that despite “protecting” the six religions from defamation, Indonesia still allows other religions and beliefs to be practiced in Indonesia. President Sukarno, who wrote the law in January 1965, explicitly mentioned that “Judaism, Zoroastrian, Shinto, Taoism and others” could be practiced.

 

The 2014 Children Protection Law also says that all children have the right to practice their religions and beliefs. Article 21 says the state, the central government and local governments are obligated and responsible for fulfilling the rights of children without discrimination, including on the basis of religion.

 

Denying elementary students and advancement to the next grade because of their faith violates their rights to education and freedom of worship. The principal could simply ask the students to take Jehovah’s Witnesses lessons from their community in Tarakan, like Sunda Wiwitan students in West Java have done, or offer another accommodation at the school.

 

Ario Sulistiono of the Jehovah’s Witnesses office in Jakarta told me that a total of 22 children have faced similar problems elsewhere in Indonesia since 2016.  In most cases, parents decided to move their children to other schools that did not discriminate against them in this way. But this is an unacceptable price to pay for one’s religious beliefs. The Tarakan authorities should direct the principal to promote the siblings to their proper grade level immediately. The Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry should issue national instructions prohibiting such discrimination.

 

As I was saying goodbye, Maria asked me what she should spend time learning, as repeating her grade has left her with a lot of time. I suggested she study English, as it will open up a world of information and ideas.

 

Photo: Members of the National Commission for Child Protection speak with students at SDN 51 state elementary school, including Maria Tunbonat and her siblings in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, Indonesia, November 2021. © Photo courtesy of Retno Listyarti of the National Commission for Child Protection

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website





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INDONESIA: Indonesian woman flogged 100 times for adultery, partner gets 15

Indonesian woman flogged 100 times for adultery, partner gets 15

Channel News Asia (13.01.2022) – https://bit.ly/3tlEY4i – An Indonesian woman was flogged 100 times on Thursday (Jan 13) in conservative Aceh province for adultery while her male partner, who denied the accusations, received just 15 lashes.

 

Ivan Najjar Alavi, the head of the general investigation division at East Aceh prosecutors office, said the court handed down a heftier sentence for the married woman after she confessed to investigators she had sex out of her marriage.

 

Judges found it difficult to convict the man, who was then the head of East Aceh fishery agency and also married, because he denied all wrongdoings, Alavi added.

 

“During the trial, he admitted nothing, denying all accusations. Thus, [judges] are not able to prove whether he is guilty,” Alavi told reporters after a public flogging for Sharia law offenders in East Aceh on Thursday.

 

Aceh is the only region in Muslim-majority Indonesia to impose Islamic law, which allows whipping for charges including gambling, adultery, drinking alcohol, and gay sex.

 

As an alternative punishment, instead the judges found the married man guilty of “showing affection to a female partner who is not his wife” after the couple were caught by locals at a palm oil plantation in 2018.

 

He was initially sentenced to 30 lashes but his successful appeal at the Sharia Supreme Court in Aceh reduced the sentence to 15.

 

The woman’s flogging was briefly paused because she couldn’t bear the pain, according to an AFP reporter in the field.

 

Another man convicted of having sex with a minor was also whipped 100 times on Thursday.

 

The man will also serve 75 months in prison for the crime after the flogging according to prosecutors.

 

Dozens watched, recorded and put Thursday’s flogging on social media, a spectacle criticised by rights groups but which regularly attracted hundreds before the pandemic.

 

Unlike the rest of the nation, Aceh follows religious law as part of a 2005 autonomy deal agreed with the central government that ended a decades-long separatist insurgency.

 

Human rights groups slam public caning as cruel, and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has called for it to end.

 

However, it has strong support among Aceh’s population.

 

Photo credits: AFP/Cek Mad





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INDONESIA: Muslim cleric arrested on blasphemy charges about Christianity

Muslim cleric arrested on blasphemy charges for insulting Christianity

By Anugrah Kumar

 

The Christian Post (30.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/3DxP2K3 – Police in the Muslim-majority country of Indonesia arrested a Muslim cleric for allegedly blaspheming against Christianity by calling the Bible fictitious and false in one of his sermons.

 

Police arrested Muhammad Yahya Waloni, a former Protestant who became a Muslim in 2006 and later an imam, from his home in the national capital of Jakarta on Thursday, UCA News reported.

 

The arrest on charges of blasphemy and hate speech came in response to a complaint filed by a civil group, which was not identified, in April.

 

“Investigations are still ongoing,” police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rusdi Hartono was quoted as saying. “It will be explained in more detail later, we are waiting for data from the Criminal Investigation Department.”

 

Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas recently called for a crackdown on people accused of committing blasphemy and hate speech.

 

“All are equal before the law. Therefore, there must be fair treatment in all cases, including blasphemy and hate speech,” he said.

 

However, Christians complain that law enforcement doesn’t treat accused from the majority community the same way they deal with members of religious minorities, including Christians.

 

“In cases of blasphemy, police and law enforcement officials must be fair instead of siding with a certain group. Christians have been arrested and brought to court in blasphemy cases, while those insulting Christianity or other religions have been left alone,” Philip Situmorang, spokesman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said in a statement.

 

Three days earlier, a Muslim convert to Christianity, identified as Muhammad Kace, was arrested in Bali on charges of blasphemy. He allegedly uploaded videos on YouTube saying  that the Islamic prophet Muhammad was “surrounded by devils and liars.”

 

The Southeast Asian country is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Its Constitution is based on the doctrine of Pancasila — five principles upholding the nation’s belief in the one and only God and social justice, humanity, unity and democracy for all.

 

However, there are many extremist groups in Indonesia that oppose Pancasila.

 

Churches often face opposition from local groups that typically question the authenticity of the signatures by area residents — a requirement as per law — to obstruct the construction of non-Muslim houses of worship.

 

The Human Rights Watch previously said that more than 1,000 churches in the archipelago had been closed due to pressure from such groups.

 

Indonesia is ranked No. 47 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most extreme levels of persecution.

 

Photo: Members of the clergy conduct Easter mass in an empty church and streamed online as part of social distancing measures amidst the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in Jakarta on April 12, 2020. | ADEK BERRY/AFP via Getty Images

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website





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INDONESIA: Aceh Christians face uphill battle for right to worship

Aceh Christians face uphill battle for right to worship

The benefits of Indonesia’s independence have not been felt by Christians in the Sharia-ruled region

By Siktus Harson

 

UCA News (13.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/2Xsc1FO – Indonesia turns 76 this month. Yet the fruits of independence have not been felt entirely by minority groups in many parts of the country.

Thousands of Christians and other religious minority groups remain ostracized and do not feel that the state is there to protect them against harassment.

In Aceh, a semi-autonomous region on the northern tip of Sumatra, Christians are under constant pressure.

Government data shows that the province has 5.3 million people, of whom more than 98 percent are Muslim. Christians only number about 53,000 or roughly 1 percent. They are mostly Protestants, with a small number of Catholics.

A region that completely operates under Islamic Sharia law leaves very little room — in most parts no room at all — for Christians to exercise their faith.

According to Radio Veritas Asia, most districts in Aceh are dominated by Muslims, except in Southeast Aceh district where more than 100 churches serve about 20,000 Christians. On the other hand, in Singkil district, where about 10,000 Christians live, the local government has allowed only one church and four chapels.

In the past seven years, at least 30 churches including Catholic ones have been demolished in Aceh, while permits for new ones are constantly rejected

The province has a special law or Qanun on building a house of worship, which stipulates that the establishment of a church requires the signature of at least 120 local Muslims. It bypasses the national joint ministerial decree that requires only at least 60 signatures of local Muslims.

This has forced Christians and other minority groups to lie low or face the threat of church attacks.

The worst attacks on Christians and churches in Aceh Singkil occurred in October 2015 when a church was burned and 20 others were demolished. One person died and four people were injured, while 2,000 Christians fled to neighboring North Sumatra.

The attack was triggered by a disagreement over the existence of these churches. Local authorities claimed the Christians had violated the “one church only” agreement. The rest were illegal, hence they had to be demolished.

Photo: A woman is publicly caned in Banda Aceh on July 8 as punishment under Aceh province’s Sharia laws for being caught in close proximity to her boyfriend. (Photo: AFP)

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website


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