Religion plays a major role in life in Indonesia. It is stated in the first principle of the state ideology, Pancasila: "belief in the one and only God". A number of different religions are practiced in the country, and their collective influence on the country's political, economical and cultural life is significant. As of 2007, the population was estimated as 234,693,997. Based on the 2000 census, approximately 86.1% were Muslims, 5.7% Protestant, 3% are Catholic, 1.8% Hindu, 3.4% other or unspecified .
The Indonesian Constitution states "every person shall be free to choose and to practice the religion of his/her choice" and "guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion or belief". The government, however, officially only recognizes six religions, namely Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
With many different religions practised in Indonesia, conflicts between believers are often unavoidable. Moreover, Indonesia's political leadership has played an important role in the relations between groups, both positively and negatively, including the Dutch East Indies' Transmigration Program, which has caused a number of conflicts in the eastern region of the country.
Historically, immigration has been a major contributor to the diversity of religion and culture within the country with immigration from India, China, Portugal, Arabian, and Netherlands. However, these aspects have changed since some modifications have been made to suit the Indonesian culture.
Before the arrival of the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity and Islam, the popular belief systems in the region were thoroughly influenced by Dharmic religious philosophy through Hinduism and Buddhism. These religions were brought to Indonesia around the second and fourth centuries, respectively, when Indian traders arrived on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi, bringing their religion. Hinduism of Shaivite traditions started to develop in Java in the fifth century AD. The traders also established Buddhism in Indonesia which developed further in the following century and a number of Hindu and Buddhist influenced kingdoms were established, such as Kutai, Srivijaya, Majapahit, and Sailendra. The world's largest Buddhist monument, Borobudur, was built by the Kingdom of Sailendra and around the same time, the Hindu monument Prambanan was also built. The peak of Hindu-Javanese civilisation was the Majapahit Empire in the fourteenth century, described as a golden age in Indonesian history.
Islam was introduced to Indonesia in the fourteenth century. Coming from Gujarat, India, Islam spread through the west coast of Sumatra and then developed to the east in Java. This period also saw kingdoms established but this time with Muslim influence, namely Demak, Pajang, Mataram and Banten. By the end of the fifteenth century, 20 Islam-based kingdoms had been established, reflecting the domination of Islam in Indonesia.
The Portuguese introduced Catholicism to Indonesia, notably to the island of Flores and to what was to become East Timor. Protestantism was first introduced by the Dutch in the sixteenth century with Calvinist and Lutheran influences. Animist areas in eastern Indonesia, on the other hand, were the main focus Dutch conversion efforts, including Maluku, North Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, Papua and Kalimantan. Later, Christianity spread from the coastal ports of Borneo and missionaries arrived among the Torajans on Sulawesi. Parts of Sumatra were also targeted, most notably the Batak people, who are predominantly Protestant today.
Significant changes in religion aspect also happened during the New Order era. Between 1964 and 1965, the tension between the Communist Party of Indonesia (Partai Komunis Indonesia or PKI) and the Indonesian government, along with some organisations, resulted in the worst mass murders of the twentieth century. Following the incident, the New Order government had tried to suppress the supporters of PKI, by applying a policy that everyone must choose a religion, since PKI supporters were mostly atheists. As a result, every Indonesian citizen was required to carry personal identification cards indicating their religion. The policy resulted in a mass religion conversions, topped by conversions to Protestantism and Catholicism (Christianity). The same situation happened with Indonesians with Chinese ethnicity, who mostly were Confucianists. Because Confucianism was not one of the state recognised religions, many Chinese Indonesians were also converted to Christianity.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, with 88 percent of its citizens identifying as Muslim. Traditionally, Muslims have been concentrated in the more populous western islands of Indonesia such as Java and Sumatra. In less populous eastern islands, the Muslim population is proportionally lower. Most Indonesian Muslims are Sunnis. Around one million are Shias, who are concentrated around Jakarta.
The history of Islam in Indonesia is complex and reflects the diversity of Indonesian cultures. In the 12th century many predominantly Muslim traders from India arrived on the island of Sumatra, Java and Kalimantan where the religion flourished between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. The dominant Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms of the time, such as Majapahit and Sriwijaya, were in decline and the numerous Hindus and Buddhists mostly converted to Islam, although a smaller number, as in the notable case of Hindus immigrating to Bali, moved off Java and Sumatra. Islam in Indonesia is in many cases less meticulously practiced in comparison to Islam, for example, in the Middle East region.
Politically, parties based on moderate and tolerant Islamic interpretations have had significant, but not dominant success in the national parliamentary elections in 1999 and 2004. Hardline Islamist parties, however, have had little electoral success and their bases of support remain. One form of Islam, known as neofundamentalist, adapted for new ways of thinking about the relationship between Islam, politics and society. Nonetheless, a number of fundamentalist groups have been established, including the Majelis Mujahiden (MMI) and their alleged associates Jamaah Islamiyah (JI). The Islamist Justice and Prosperous Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera or PKS) has a different point of view from the neofundamentalists, notably the anti-Semitic views and anti-Western conspiracy theories of some of its members.
Protestantism arrived in Indonesia during the Dutch East Indies (VOC) colonisation, around the sixteenth century. VOC policy to ban Catholicism significantly increased the percentage of Protestant believers in Indonesia. Missionary efforts for the most part did not extend to Java or other already predominantly Muslim areas. The religion has expanded considerably in the 20th century, marked by the arrival of European missionaries in some parts of the country, such as Western New Guinea and Lesser Sunda Islands. Following the 1965 coup, all non-religious people were recognised as Atheist, and hence did not receive a balanced treatment compared to the rest of the citizens. As a result, Protestant churches experienced a significant growth of members, partly due to the uncomfortable feeling towards the political aspirations of Islamic parties.
Protestants form a significant minority in some parts of the country. For example, on the island of Sulawesi, 17% of the citizens are Protestants, particularly in Tana Toraja and Central Sulawesi. Furthermore, up to 65% of the Torajan population is Protestant. The Batak from North Sumatra is also one of the major Protestant group in Indonesia. The Christianity was brought by Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen who is known as apostle to Batak people and started the Huria Kristen Batak Protestant church in Indonesia. In some parts of the country, entire villages belong to a distinct denomination, such as Adventist, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Lutheran, Presbyterian or Salvation Army (Bala Keselamatan) depending on the success of missionary activity. Indonesia has two Protestant-majority provinces, which are Papua and North Sulawesi, with 60% and 64% of the total population consecutively.[22 ] In Papua, the faith is most widely practiced among the native Papuan population. In North Sulawesi, the Minahasan population centered around Manado converted to Christianity in the nineteenth century. Today most of the population native to North Sulawesi practice some form of Protestantism, while transmigrants from Java and Madura practice Islam. As of 2006, 6% of the total citizens of Indonesia are Protestants.[22 ]
Catholicism arrived in Indonesia during the Portuguese arrival with spice trading. Many Portuguese had the goal of spreading Roman Catholicism in Indonesia, starting with Maluku islands in 1534. Between 1546 and 1547, the pioneer Christian missionary, Saint Francis Xavier, visited the islands and baptised several thousand locals.
During the Dutch East Indies (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) era, the number of Roman Catholicism practitioners fell significantly, due to VOC policy to ban the religion. The most significant result was on the island of Flores and East Timor, where VOC concentrated. Moreover, Roman Catholic priests were sent to prisons or punished and replaced by Protestant priests from the Netherlands. One Roman Catholic priest was executed for celebrating Mass in a prison during Jan Pieterszoon Coen's tenure as Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. After the VOC collapsed and with the legalization of Catholicism in the Netherlands starting around 1800, Dutch Catholic clergy predominated until after Indonesia's independence.
As of 2006, 3% of all Indonesians are Catholics, about half the number of Protestants at 5.7% The practitioners mostly live in Papua and Flores.
On September 22, 2006, there was a massive strike by Catholics, concentrated mainly on Flores Island following the execution of three Roman Catholic men. Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu, and Dominggus da Silva were convicted in 2001 of leading a Christian militia which killed at least 70 Muslims in 2000. However, human rights groups had questioned the fairness of the trial: claiming that although the three participated in the militia, they were not the leaders.
Hindu culture and religion arrived in the Indonesian archipelago in the first century, later coinciding with the arrival of Buddhism, resulting in a number of Hinduism-Buddhism empires such as Kutai, Mataram and Majapahit. The Prambanan Temple complex was built during the era of Hindu Mataram, during the Sanjaya dynasty. The greatest Hindu empire ever flourished in Indonesian archipelago was Majapahit empire. The age of Hindu-Buddhist empires lasted until the sixteenth century, when the archipelago's Islamic empires began to expand. This period, known as the Hindu-Indonesia period, lasted for sixteen full centuries. The influence of Hinduism and classical India remain defining traits of Indonesian culture; the Indian concept of the god-king still shapes Indonesian concepts of leadership and the use of Sanskrit in courtly literature and adaptations of Indian mythology such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Hinduism in Indonesia takes on a tone distinct from other parts of the world. For instance, Hinduism in Indonesia, formally referred as Agama Hindu Dharma, never applied the caste system. Another example is that the Hindu religious epics, the Mahabharata (Great Battle of the Descendants of Bharata) and the Ramayana (The Travels of Rama), became enduring traditions among Indonesian believers, expressed in shadow puppet (wayang) and dance performances. Hinduism has also formed differently in Java regions, which were more heavily influenced by their own version of Islam, known as Islam Abangan or Islam Kejawen.
All practitioners of Agama Hindu Dharma share many common beliefs, mostly the Five Points of Philosophy: the Panca Srada. These include the belief in one Almighty God, belief in the souls and spirits and karma or the belief in the law of reciprocal actions. Rather than belief on cycles of rebirth and reincarnation, Hinduism in Indonesia is concerned more with a myriad of local and ancestral spirits. In addition, the religion focuses more on art and ritual rather than scriptures, laws and beliefs.
The official number of Hindu practitioners is 10 million (2007), and currently giving Indonesia the fourth largest number of Hindus in the world. This number is disputed by the representative of Hinduism in Indonesia, the Parisada Hindu Dharma. The PHDI gives an estimate of 18 million. Of this number, 93% of the practitioners are located in Bali, the majority of the population of which is Hindu. Besides Bali, Sumatra, Java, Lombok and Kalimantan island also have significant Hindu populations. Central Kalimantan is 15.8% Hindu.
Sikhs are also registered as Hindus in Indonesia because Sikhism is not recognized as a religion by them.
Buddhism is the second oldest religion in Indonesia, arriving around the sixth century. The history of Buddhism in Indonesia is closely related to the history of Hinduism, as a number of empires based on Buddhist culture were established around the same period. Indonesian archipelago has witnessed the rise and fall of powerful Buddhist empires such as Sailendra dynasty, Srivijaya and Mataram Empires. The arrival of Buddhism was started with the trading activity that began in the early of first century on the Silk Road between Indonesia and India. According to some Chinese source, a Chinese traveler monk on his journey to India, has witnessed the powerful maritime empire of Srivijaya based on Sumatra. The empire also served as a Buddhist learning center in the region. A number of historical heritages can be found in Indonesia, including the Borobudur Temple in Yogyakarta and statues or prasasti (inscriptions) from the earlier history of Buddhist empires.
Following the downfall of President Sukarno in the mid-1960s, Pancasila was reasserted as the official Indonesian policy on religion to only recognise monotheism . As a result, founder of Perbuddhi (Indonesian Buddhists Organisation), Bhikku Ashin Jinarakkhita, proposed that there was a single supreme deity, Sang Hyang Adi Buddha. He was also backed up with the history behind the Indonesian version of Buddhism in ancient Javanese texts, and the shape of the Borobudur Temple.
According to the 1990 national census, slightly more than 1% of the total citizens of Indonesia are Buddhists, which takes up about 1.8 million people. Most Buddhists are concentrated in Jakarta, although other provinces such as Riau, North Sumatra and West Kalimantan also have a significant number of practitioners. However, these totals are likely high, due to the fact that practitioners of Confucianism and Taoism, which are not considered official religions of Indonesia, referred to themselves as Buddhists on the census.
Confucianism originated from China mainland and brought by Chinese merchants and immigrants. It is estimated as late as the 3rd century AD that the Chinese arrived in Nusantara archipelago. Unlike other religions, Confucianism evolved more into loose individual practices and belief in the code of conduct, rather than a well-organized community religion, or way of life or social movement. It was not until the early of 1900s that Confucianists formed an organization, called Tiong Hoa Hwee Koan (THHK) in Batavia (now Jakarta).
After the independence of Indonesia in 1945, Confucianism in Indonesia was affected by several political turmoils and has been used for some political interests. In 1965, Sukarno issued Presidential Decree No. 1/Pn.Ps/1965, in which there be six religions embraced by the Indonesian people, including Confucianism. Earlier in 1961, the Association of Khung Chiao Hui Indonesia (PKCHI), a Confucianist organization, declared that Confucianism is a religion and Confucius is their prophet.
In 1967, Sukarno was replaced by Suharto, marking the New Order era. Under Suharto rule, the anti-China policy was applied to gain political support from the people, especially after the fall of Indonesian Communist Party, which is claimed to have been backed by China. Suharto issued the controversial Presidential Instruction No. 14/1967, which practically banned Chinese culture, expression of Chinese belief, Chinese celebrations and festivities, as well as forcing many Chinese to change their name. However, Suharto knew how to handle Chinese Indonesian community that formed only 3% of the population, but gained a disproportionately large share of wealth and dominant influence in many key sectors of economy. Yet, in the same year, Suharto addressed "The Confucian religion deserves a decent place in this country," in front of the PKCHI national convention.
In 1969, Statute No. 5/1969 was passed and it re-iterated the official six religions from the 1967 presidential decree. However, it was different in practice. In 1978, the Minister of Home Affairs issued its directive that there are only five religions, excluding Confucianism. On 27 January 1979, a presidential cabinet meeting took place and it firmly decided that Confucianism is not a religion. Another Minister of Home Affairs was issued in 1990 re-iterating about five official religions in Indonesia.
Hence the status of Confucianism in Indonesia in the New Order era was never clear. De jure, there were conflicting laws, as the higher law permitted Confucianism, but the lower law did not recognize it. De facto, Confucianists were not recognized by the government and they were forced to become Christians or Buddhists to maintain their citizenship. This practice was applied in many places, including in the national registration card, marriage registration, and even civics education in Indonesia taught school children that there are only 5 official religions.
With the fall of Suharto in 1998, Abdurrahman Wahid was elected as the fourth president. Wahid lifted the Presidential Instruction No. 14/1967 and the 1978 Minister of Home Affairs directive. Confucianism is now officially recognized as religion in Indonesia. Chinese culture and all related Chinese-affiliated activities are now allowed to be practiced. Chinese and non-Chinese Confucianists have since then expressed their belief in freedom.
The form of Animism in Indonesia shares the same form with Animism worldwide, which is, a belief in certain objects, such as trees, stones or people. This belief has existed since Indonesia's earliest history, around the first century, just before Hindu culture arrived in Indonesia. Furthermore, two thousand years later, with the existence of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and other religion, Animism still exists in some parts of Indonesia. However, this belief is not accepted as Indonesia's official religion as the Pancasila states the belief in the supreme deity, or monotheism. Animism, on the other hand, does not believe in a particular god.
There are small unrecognized Jewish communities in Jakarta and Surabaya. An early Jewish settlement in the archipelago was through the Dutch Jews who came along for the spice trade. In the 1850s, about 20 Jewish families of Dutch and German origins lived in Jakarta (then Batavia). Some lived in Semarang and Surabaya. Several Baghdadi Jews also settled in the island. Prior to 1945, there were about 2,000 Dutch Jews in Indonesia. In 1957, it was reported around 450 Jews remained, mainly Ashkenazim in Jakarta and Sephardim in Surabaya. The community has decreased to 50 in 1963. In 1997, there were only 20 Jews, some of them in Jakarta and a few Baghdadi families in Surabaya.
Although the Indonesian government recognizes a number of different religions, inter-religious conflicts have occurred. In the New Order era, former president Suharto proposed the Anti-Chinese law which prohibits anything related to Chinese culture, including names and religions. Nevertheless, positive form of relations have also appeared in the society, such as the effort from six different religious organisations to help the 2004 Tsunami victims.
Between 1966 and 1998, Suharto made an effort to "de-Islamicise" the government, by maintaining a large proportion of Christians in his cabinet. However, in the early 1990s, the issue of Islamisation appeared, and the military split into two groups, the Nationalist and Islamic camps. The Islamic camp, led by General Prabowo, was in favour of Islamisation, while General Wiranto was in the Nationalist group, in favour of a secular state.
During the Suharto era, the Indonesian transmigration program continued, after it was initiated by the Dutch East Indies government in the early nineteenth century. The intention of the program was to move millions of Indonesians from over-crowded populated Java, Bali and Madura to other less populated regions, such as Ambon, Lesser Sunda Islands and Papua. It has received much criticism, being described as a type of colonisation by the Javanese and Madurese, who also brought Islam to non-Muslim areas. Citizens in western Indonesia are mostly Muslims with Christians a small minority, while in eastern regions the Christian populations are similar in size or larger than Muslim populations. This more even population distribution has led to more religious conflicts in the eastern regions, including Poso and Maluku communal violence since the resignation of President Suharto.
The government has made an effort to reduce the tension by proposing the inter-religion co-operation plan. The Foreign Ministry, along with the biggest Islamic organization in Indonesia, Nahdatul Ulama, held the International Conference of Islamic Scholars, to promote Islamic moderation, which is believed to reduce the tension in the country. On December 6, 2004, the "Dialogue On Interfaith Cooperation: Community Building and Harmony" conference was opened. The conference, which attended by ASEAN countries, Australia, Timor Leste, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea was intended to discuss possible co-operation between different religious groups to minimise inter-religious conflict in Indonesia. The Australian government, represented by the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, supported the dialogue by co-hosting it.