The term “native religion” can be widely defined as sets of values considered to be true which originated naturally from a particular place. Lots of tribal people living throughout the years have natively passed their native beliefs from generations to generations.
Locally speaking, Indonesia is a country known for its diverse nature, people, and cultures; thus, it is not unusual to recognize that a heap of various indigenous beliefs exists in this country.
In Indonesia, a plethora of local beliefs have existed throughout decades, such as Batak Parmalim, Sangirese Masade, Javanese Kejawen, and there might still be more yet to be acknowledged. As of 2016, government statistics convey that there are 245 native religions with at least 400,000 adherents in Indonesia.
Distinct indigenous faiths represent how diverse and unique the cultures and beliefs are in Indonesia, yet the widely and officially approved religions in Indonesia are posing disharmonious challenges against these native beliefs.
Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism are the religions which have been acknowledged as the official religions in Indonesia.
Why can’t indigenous beliefs be classified as official religions? The difficulties of comprehending indigenous faiths lie in the fact that they differ quite a lot compared to official religions.
These official religions have a center of faith, a body of orthodox doctrine, and a collection of theological texts which scholars and laypeople can refer to.
In contrast, indigenous faiths are characterized by the diversity which recognizes each person has a unique vision of the origin of universe and how it shapes the behaviors in life. These visions are then passed to descendants through oral narratives or primordial acts in ceremonies.
The difference that existed between official religions and native religions has actually narrowed down the capacity of tolerance for the non-official religions, namely, indigenous beliefs. Inappreciable amount of tolerance for local beliefs has been shown by several cases.
A case, elaborated in 2016 by Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian researcher at Human Rights Watch, reveals a blatant discrimination against an indigenous belief in Indonesia. This case involves a 11th grade student at public school in Semarang, Zulfa Nur Rohman.
He is an adherent of an indigenous belief of Javanese, Hayu Ningrat. His faith in Hayu Ningrat denied him the chance to continue to the next grade because he refused to participate in reading Quran and performing prayer which are mandatory as a part of Islamic studies class.
The fact that his education is obstructed only because he stands firm to his faith displays that he is no less than a victim of bureaucratic discrimination against religious minorities in Indonesia.
Another case worth mentioning is elaborated in Krithika Vargur’s article in VOA News in 2017. In this case, an adherent of Kejawen, a syncretic Javanese religion, received an undeserved action against his faith.
He claimed that he was not allowed to bury a family member at a public cemetery because the religion column of his ID card (or known as Kartu Tanda Penduduk) was left blank due to his indigenous belief.
The act of denying a person to bury a family member at a public cemetery due to his indigenous faith implies a discrimination against religious minorities as well.
The cases mentioned earlier are only 2 cases of a pile of other discrimination cases against local beliefs, excluding acts of discrimination which have not yet been reported.
It is true that indigenous beliefs are not officially acknowledged in Indonesia, but believing in certain sets of values which are considered to be true as a guidance for actions in life and finding the ultimate purpose of life is the true meaning of every faith, whether it is recognized officially or not.
Every person with indigenous belief deserves equal chance in all aspects of life and equal treatment from the government in every country.
Although there are many discriminations going on, particularly in Indonesia, steps have been taken to improve the capacity of tolerance for indigenous beliefs.
In the research article by Paul Marshall in 2018, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court recommended a category – “Believers of the Faith” – to be created for the religion field in ID cards. This kind of action sparks hope of erasing discrimination against religious minorities, especially native religions.
If concrete changes of bureaucratic law are done as an effort to eradicate discrimination, the ultimate harmonious relationship of all religions, official or indigenous, could eventually achieved.