Indonesia is one of many countries with the most diversed people. You can say the same when it comes to religion. Despite being known as the country with the most Muslim population, Indonesia recognizes 5 other religions beside Islam. They are Protetantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.
However, this fact does not mean that everywhere in Indonesia, Islam is the majority. For instance, in Bali, the major religion is Hinduism. There are also places in Indonesia where Protestantism is the major religion, like in Flores, Papua, West Sulawesi, and North Sulawesi.
The diversity in Indonesia extends to the beliefs systems as well. There are still many communities in Indonesia that still uphold and practice indigenous beliefs from their ancestors. However, the adherents and the beliefs themselves went unrecognized as an official religion in Indonesia.
One of the examples of indigenous belief in Indonesia is Kejawen. It is an ancient faith that roots to the island of Java. This faith dates back to more than a century before the arrival of Islam in Indonesia. However, Kejawen has now incorporated aspects of the Islam faith into its belief system.
Today, Kejawen is a fusion, a belief that blends Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam with ancient Javanese animist beliefs. It is said to be a mystical faith, spirits and mantras used are closely related to traditional Javanese culture.
With the absence of recognition from the official government, the adherents of indigenous religions are forced to mask their religion. Indonesian citizens are obligated to state their religion on their identity card.
Moreover, because none of the indigenous religions are officially recognized as a religion in Indonesia, the adherent of these indigenous religions often lied about their religions. Registering themselves as the adherents of one of the official religions mentioned above.
Because of this state of unrecognition from the government, the adherents of indigenous religions often face discrimination too. They are often resented by the community in which they live in. They are often seen as shamans who perform witchcraft or other dark rituals.
People from mainstream religions also often think that the prayers and practices of indigenous religions are deviant and weird. This resulted in the adherents of indigenous religions not being able to practice their beliefs freely.
The discrimination could go as far as telling these adherents of indigenous religions to convert to the mainstream religions which had been recognize by the government. They were told to stop following their religions because it is viewed as an outdated mystical faith.
Moreover, people who follow indigenous religions often face consequences from being a minority. They struggle to receive government documents, such as birth certificate, marriage certificate and many more because the government does not recognize their religion.
Now, this may not seem like a serious problem, but without basic government documents, these people struggle even more. It makes it difficult for them to access healthcare, democratic processes, as well as opportunities for employment and education.
So, what caused this problem of indigenous religions go unrecognized despite being originated in Indonesia?
The major reason for this is because of the Pancasila. The Pancasila consists of 5 principles that based the Indonesian ideology. The first principle of Pancasila state that every Indonesian has to believe in God (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa).
In theory, it should grant recognition for the current official religions. Here lies the problem, many indigenous religions do not believe in God or other such deity.
Many can even be considered as animist as well, where the worship of spirits is the way for them to practice their faith. They believe that spirits play a much bigger role in their lives than “God”.
The other reason for this problem is one of Indonesia’s most historic event. Following an attempted coup in 1965 that officially blamed the Communist Party of Indonesia(PKI) and an anti-communist purge, the New Order government attempted to suppress PKI supporters.
So how should we react towards this issue? The first principle of Pancasila was essentially made so that by believing in God, people will be careful in living the life as a good citizen.
However, if we think about it again, do we really need God to be a good citizen? The answer may differ for each person, but as long as someone is being a respectful and obiedient citizen, it should not matter what their religion is.
We need to recognize indigenous religion in Indonesia because they are a part of our country’s identity.