Religion in Indonesia




Indonesia is diverse in every aspect. The ethnicities, customs, cuisine vary from island to island, and within individual islands 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 very difficult region because of religious intolerance. On the island, there are constant clashes between representatives of different religions.

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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. It is followed by Christians – Catholics and Protestants, there are also Orthodox communities. A little more than one percent of the population is made up of Hindus who live on Bali. In ancient times, Hinduism was the dominant spiritual practice of the country, but 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 the territory of Indonesia 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 difficult 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-Tengers, and in Bali on holidays, the militia observes the Muslims, partially limiting them in freedom of action. The islands predominantly profess Sunni Islam, but there is a large Shiite community located in the Jakarta region.


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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 activities of the Catholic Church. During these or those periods, missionary activity was conducted in the country, but due to a number of problems and internal conflicts, Christian expansion is considered unsuccessful.

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Hinduism, as indicated above, was the main religion, but with the fall of the kingdom of Majapahit 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 also zealously celebrate annual holidays that have their own special flavour. Like the holiday of Hari Raya Galungan that is dedicated to the return of the spirits 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.

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Buddhism, like Hinduism, is known to Indonesians since antiquity. Having 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 located 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.

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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 certain regions of the country. However, due to the fact that in animism there is no concept of a single god, this religion is not recognized by the official authorities of the country.

Religion and the state

In order 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. In fact, atheism is forbidden by Pancasila, the state ideology.

Indonesia is an amazing 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.

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