RI not tak­ing side of in­dige­nous peo­ple

The Jakarta Post - - HEADLINES - Gemma Hol­liani Cahya

De­spite putting in a lot of en­ergy to cam­paign for re­li­gious free­dom, In­done­sia re­mains a coun­try ram­pant with stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion against in­dige­nous peo­ples.

They con­tinue to face se­ri­ous chal­lenges, such as con­stant dif­fi­cul­ties pro­fess­ing their tra­di­tional re­li­gions and even ob­tain­ing IDs.

“This coun­try has ne­glected us for too long. Its poli­cies have de­stroyed our com­mu­ni­ties,” said Yana, a mem­ber of the Sunda wi­wi­tan faith group in Cire­un­deu vil­lage in Cimahi re­gency, West Java.

On Fri­day, Yana and three other men, who all wore tra­di­tional cos­tumes, stood in front of par­tic­i­pants of a sem­i­nar held by the In­done­sian In­sti­tute of Sciences (LIPI) in Jakarta. They took turns to con­vey prayers ex­pressed in lan­guages that might sound like mantras to most ears.

In ad­di­tion to Yana, a fol­lower of Sunda wi­wi­tan, the re­li­gion of the Baduy tribe, the three other men rep­re­sented three other in­dige­nous be­lief sys­tems: Ka­haringan, the re­li­gion of the Dayak tribes in Kal­i­man­tan; Marapu, the re­li­gion of tribes in West Sumba, East Nusa Teng­gara and Nuaulu, the re­li­gion of tribes in Seram, Maluku.

In the sem­i­nar en­ti­tled “Cul­tural Geno­cide: A Threat to the Di­ver­sity and In­tegrity of An­ces­tral Be­liefs,” held jointly by LIPI and sev­eral NGOs, Yana and his col­leagues shared their ex­pe­ri­ences of the dif­fi­cul­ties in­dige­nous peo­ple in In­done­sia faced in ex­er­cis­ing their rights to free­dom, in­clud­ing re­li­gious free­dom.

Although they can ob­tain IDs, in­dige­nous peo­ple must leave the re­li­gion col­umn blank, im­ply­ing that their be­liefs are not rec­og­nized in In­done­sia.

Un­der such pres­sure, many mem­bers of in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties have fi­nally agreed to choose one of the five ac­knowl­edged re­li­gions to be put it on their IDs, although it is not some­thing they want to do.

The blank part on the ID cards had brought em­bar­rass­ment to in­dige­nous peo­ple and made them afraid be­cause of the stigma di­rected to­ward them, Yana said. The worse thing was that the stigma made it dif­fi­cult for them to ac­cess pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties, he ex­plained.

The Marapu peo­ple, who wor­ship the God of their an­ces­tors, have also felt the same dis­crim­i­na­tion.

It was only af­ter Agusti­nus Niga Da­pa­wole was elected as West Sumba re­gent in 2013 that the Marapu com­mu­nity’s chil­dren could go to school.

Agusti­nus is part of the Marapu com­mu­nity. Although he is a Chris­tian, Agusti­nus still prac­tices his an­ces­tor’s be­liefs.

“Be­fore 2013 our chil­dren could not go to school be­cause the schools asked us for a copy of our mar­riage cer­tifi­cates, and we don’t have that,” said Rato Lado Regi Tera of the Marapu com­mu­nity.

Like many other in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, the Marapu peo­ple do not have mar­riage cer­tifi­cates be­cause they hold their mar­riages in ac­cor­dance with their tra­di­tions and, there­fore, do not reg­is­ter at the civil reg­istry of­fice.

Trisno Su­tanto from the NGO Interfaith Di­a­logue So­ci­ety (Ma­dia) said, “Even though no phys­i­cal geno­cide has oc­curred here, if you de­stroy the roots of a cul­ture, that is also a form of geno­cide.”

“It is pos­si­ble to elim­i­nate a com­mu­nity by de­stroy­ing the roots of their cul­tural her­itage,” he went on.

Trisno said the chal­lenges In­done­sia’s in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties faced ranged from dif­fi­cul­ties ob­tain­ing doc­u­ments from civil ad­min­is­tra­tions to ex­er­cis­ing their rights to hold tra­di­tional rit­u­als, even fu­ner­als.

“If you want to talk about com­plete dis­crim­i­na­tion you can’t find in them, be­cause they face it all, from the day they are born to the day they die,” Trisno said.

He said marginal­iz­ing in­dige­nous be­liefs that had lived in the coun­try for a very long time was a process of mur­der­ing the cul­ture of in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

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