Religion in Indonesia
7 May 2019
Indonesia is diverse in every aspect. The ethnicities, customs, cuisine vary from island to island, and within individual isles too. Cultic diversity was no exception – Chinese, Indian and Arab influences and the missionary activities of European Christians created the religious variety of Indonesia. Residents of the island republic zealously observe the customs of the chosen religion. This simultaneously makes Indonesia a very spiritualistic and spiritual place and a challenging region because of religious intolerance. On the island, there are constant clashes between representatives of different religions.
Religious composition of Indonesia
Officially, the state recognizes six religions – Hinduism, Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.
The overwhelming majority of the population professes Islam. Christians follow it – Catholics and Protestants, there are also Orthodox communities. A little more than one percent of the population is made up of Hindus, who live in Bali. In ancient times, Hinduism was the dominant spiritual practice of the country. In the 16th century, after the fall of the Majapahit kingdom and the strengthening of Islamic positions, Hinduism lost its significance.
Islam in Indonesia is practiced by almost 90% of the population. This religion began to spread on Indonesia's territory through Western Indian traders, who were predominantly Muslims. Most of all, adherents of Islam are concentrated on the islands of Sumatra and Java. Islam and Hinduism are known for their complicated relationships around the world, Indonesia is no exception, and we can often observe relatively open conflicts between representatives of these religions. So, Javanese Islamists oppress Hindu-Tenggerese, and in Bali on holidays, the militia sees the Muslims, partially limiting them in freedom of action. The islands predominantly profess Sunni Islam, but there is a significant Shiite community in the Jakarta region.
Christianity ranks second in the number of adherents – 5% of the population professes Protestantism, and 3% – Catholicism. For the first time, Indonesians became acquainted with Christianity in the 16th century, when Portuguese traders and missionaries began to sail to the islands, slowly turning Indonesians into Catholicism. After the Portuguese, the Dutch Protestants arrived, making Indonesia a Dutch colony for a while, limiting the Catholic Church's activities. During these or those periods, missionary activity was conducted in the country, but due to several problems and internal conflicts, Christian expansion is considered unsuccessful.
Hinduism, as indicated above, was the main religion, but with the fall of Majapahit's kingdom in the XVI, Hinduism lost its influence. On the islands, there are many cultural monuments – temple complexes of Hindus, which are popular with tourists. If you are interested in Indonesian Hinduism, you should come to Bali. 93% of the people there have preserved the faith of their ancestors, and Balinese Hinduism is different from Indian – the Balinese spend a lot of time on everyday rituals dedicated to the spirits of their ancestors and zealously celebrate annual holidays that have their unique flavor. Like the holiday of Hari Raya Galungan, which dedicated to the return of the souls of ancestors to the homes of their heirs. The ten-day festival is repeated every two hundred and ten days, during which the streets of Bali are decorated with traditional attributes.
Photo by kamchatka-Depositphotos
Buddhism, like Hinduism, is known to Indonesians since antiquity. It appeared on the islands in the 6th century. This religion has always been a minority belief – in Indonesia, only 1% of Buddhists profess, mainly communities in Jakarta, Northern Sumatra. The pride of Buddhists around the world is the Borobudur temple complex, which attracts tourists from all over the world with its ancient statues.
Photo by alessandrucci.
It is worth mentioning animism – the religion of ancient Indonesians, which was replaced by Hinduism in the first century. These beliefs are still preserved in some areas of the country. However, because in animism, there is no concept of a single god, this religion is not recognized by the country's official authorities.
Religion and the state
To control all the diversity of religions on its territory, the state in the constitution recognizes the power of the One God, and guarantees citizens freedom of religion. Initially, the draft constitution enshrined the requirement for Muslims to comply with the Sharia, but in the final version, this phrase disappeared.
Despite the tolerance to other religions of Indonesia on the part of the state, interreligious conflicts are frequent in Indonesia, as well as infringement of the rights of an atheistic minority. Pancasila, the state ideology forbid atheism.
Indonesia is a fantastic country for those who want to get to know with their own eyes the diversity of exotic cultures, as well as how these cultures intertwine. Nevertheless, frequent conflicts and age-old unsolved problems are still destabilizing the island state.