Indonesia the most religiously harmonious country: politician

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With six faiths officially recognized by the government, Indonesia can be considered the most religiously harmonious country in the world, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said in his opening speech at the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace, in Bandung on Wednesday.

Kalla pointed out that on Tuesday, Indonesia celebrated Vesek Day as a national holiday, even though Buddhists make up a mere 0.7 percent of the population.

He compared this with the situation in the Philippines, where over 10 percent of the population is Muslim yet it took the government until last year to designate Idul Adha — the Islamic feast of sacrifice — a national holiday.

The Philippine government already designated Idul Fitri — the celebrations after the end of the Islamic fasting month — a national holiday in 2002.

“Tell me which country is more democratic than Indonesia,” the vice president said. “Even the United States, the largest democracy, doesn’t have [an Islamic holiday as a national holiday].”

Indonesia, with a population of over 250 million, officially recognizes six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism, with all being granted national holidays.

According to data from the 2010 census, over 87 percent of Indonesians identify as Muslims, with the large majority adhering to the mainstream Sunni interpretation of the faith.

Indonesia has received praise for the largely peaceful ways in which people of different faiths coexist, although there have in recent years been a number of attacks on minority groups. Some of these have been deadly, like the notorious assault on members of the Ahmadiyah community in Banten province in 2011, when three Ahmadis were savagely beaten to death by a large mob.

The Shia community has also faced violence in recent years, like in Sampang, on Madura island, where a riot in August 2012 left two Shias dead and hundreds displaced.

There also continue to be disputes involving Christian communities, most notably the still-unsettled case of the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, which has been sealed off by authorities since 2010.

Atheism is not officially allowed in Indonesia and the country continues to criminalize blasphemy. There is also a heated debate over the need to state one’s religion on identity cards.

Novianti Setuningsih for Jakarta Globe

Source: (Jun.3, 2015)