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Religion and politics in Indonesia

Religionand politics in Indonesia

Fromits name, Indonesia is an archipelago in the Southeast Asia witharound 13,466 islands. It is surrounded by the countries of Malaysia,East Timor and Papua New Guinea. It is the world’s 4thmost populous country with around 238 million inhabitants. TheNational Capital city of Indonesia is Jakarta which is also thelargest City in Indonesia. The economy of Indonesia is the 16thlargest in the world in terms of the GDP income. (Guerin, 2006)Indonesia is a country with vast differences among inhabitants withthe population separated by 300 distinct ethnic groups and 742different languages and dialects. The largest and the mostpolitically dominant ethnic group in Indonesia is the Javanese.(Gelman2003).&nbsp

Religionin Indonesia influences the political and social system occurring inthe nation. Most of the largest monotheistic religions are present inIndonesia as well as the primitive Religions such as Kalimantan andIrian Jaya. The Indonesian Government generally allows freedom of thereligion. However, the Indonesian Government only recognizes 6official religions that are required to be identified by IndonesianPeople in their identity card. The Indonesian Government recognizesthe Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism andConfucianism. Indonesian Government does not recognize agnosticismand atheism since they follow the principle of Pancasila which is oneof the Indonesian Philosophical foundations. (Gelman2003).&nbspPancasilaconsist of five basic principles and one of these is to believe inone and only God. Blasphemy is also illegal in Indonesia since theyrespect each other’s beliefs. Conflicts between different religionsespecially the Muslim and the Christians have been the major problemfor Indonesia for the past Century. (Colin,2003)

IndonesianPresident Sukarno developed the Pancasila in 1945 to create aphilosophical foundation of Indonesian state due to the need ofuniting the diverse archipelago. Pancasila was developed to arrangeand solve the conflicting problems faced by the Muslim, Nationalistand Christian Community. It has been the foundation of theconstitution of 1945. (Colin,2003)

Islamhas been introduced by the Muslim traders coming from India and Arabcountries in the 12thcentury until they conquered most of the Indonesian Archipelago. Themost faithful Muslim nowadays lived in the Northern tip of Sumatra orAceh which is believed to be the first area that have been penetratedby the Muslims. At the beginning of the 20thcentury, Islam has been a major political force due to the weakeningforces of nationalism. (Gelman2003).&nbspIn1912, the modernistic Muhhamadiyah was established which is the mostimportant movement in Muslim Indonesian History. They wanted tomodernize the teachings of Islam from the perspective of Islam in theWest. They wanted to eliminate the local tradition or the adatand retain the original teachings from QuranandSunnah. Even with the Pancasila, Islam revolution always emerged althoughstarting from the 1990s, it was stable. Today, Islam is also apolitical force in the Indonesian government. (Colin,2003)

Themain reason for the emergence of Christianity in Indonesia is becauseof the Dutch which colonizes the nation in the past and due to thePortuguese colonizing the East Timor. When Suharto took over aspresident in 1965, the people are required to choose from the sixrecognized religions by the Indonesian government. If they have noreligion, they were recognized as a communist and the Indonesiangovernment will kill them. Most of the Chinese pick the Christianitythat fueled the conflict between them and the indigenous people ofIndonesia even more. (Colin,2003)

Hinduismin Indonesia is distinct and did not apply the caste system.Indonesia has the fourth largest Hindu inhabitants in the worldcomprising of almost 10 million. Buddhism on the other hand is secondoldest religion in Indonesia which arrives in about 6thcentury AD. The Chinese brought Confucianism in the 2ndcentury AD during the Chinese merchants’ travels. The independenceof Indonesia in the 1945 affected the political turmoil towardsConfucianism until Suharto recognizes the Confucianism as a basicreligion in Indonesia. (Gelman2003).&nbsp

Suhartomade an effort to de-Islamized Indonesia during his term althoughconflicts arise during the 1990s. The Military force of Indonesia wassplit into two: the Muslim Army and the Nationalist Army. TheGovernment are making an agreement nowadays to eliminate the tensionand seeking help to others Southeast Asian countries. However, duringthe disasters such as the tsunami in 2004, both of the sides arecooperating with each other to help their fellow Indonesian citizen.(Gelman2003).&nbsp

Indonesiais a republic or a unitary state governed by a President. The powerof the government was centralized into the government. After theIndonesian independence in the 1945, the Government follows theconstitution made by Suharto. When he resigned in 1998, theconstitution of Indonesia has undergone major reforms that changesmost of the laws governing the judicial, executive and legislativebranches of the government. The president of Indonesia holds thepower of the state, the government, and the Indonesian National ArmedForces as well as the director of the domestic governance, policymaking, and foreign affairs. It serves a maximum of two five-yearterms and it also decides the members of the ministers. The firstelection in Indonesia was in 2004 and it is the first time that thepeople have elected their President and the Vice President. (Guerin,2006)


Brown,Colin. (2003).&nbspAshort history of Indonesia: the unlikely nation?.Allen and Unwin. ISBN&nbsp1-86508-838-2.

Guerin,G (23 May 2006).&nbsp&quotDon`tcount on a Suharto accounting&quot.&nbspAsiaTimes Online.HongKong

Taylor,Jean Gelman. (2003).&nbspIndonesia:Peoples and History.Yale University Press.&nbspISBN&nbsp0-300-10518-5.