RI not taking side of indigenous people
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.