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Religion on Indonesian ID cards blamed for deaths

by Presi Mandari

ICC Note: The religious conflict in Indonesia is growing. A contributing factor could be the identity cards that require people to have their religion on them

4/9/07 Indonesia For full story…..(AFP) – Indonesia ‘s small, plastic identity cards may seem innocuous enough but campaigners who are trying to have the compulsory religion category dropped say they are behind many sectarian killings.

“People have been killed in sectarian conflicts because religion is mentioned on the cards,” said activist Maya Safira, who heads a non-profit group that seeks to embrace Indonesians of different backgrounds.

Safira’s National Integration Movement wants religion removed from the cards because Muslim-majority Indonesia has a history of religious conflict.

A law passed in 2006 mandated the inclusion of religion on the identity cards, despite objections that forcing people to display their faith was a violation of basic human rights.

The archipelago nation of 17,000 islands also has a number of minority religious beliefs that critics say the law simply fails to capture.

For followers of other faiths, such as animism or local traditional beliefs, nothing is entered on the card because they practice a religion the government does not officially recognize.

For Yudanegara, who uses one name, anything that marks religious division brings back awful memories. His brother perished after getting caught up in Muslim-Christian conflict in 1999 on Ambon island in Indonesia ‘s Maluku chain.

Religious violence in the chain has killed more than 5,000 people and displaced thousands more.

Violence is not the only problem for critics who say the cards can also encourage discrimination in everyday life.

Permadi, a member of Indonesia ‘s parliament who uses one name, follows a traditional faith generically termed Aliran Kepercayaan. The religion box on his identity card should have been left blank, but officials filled it in for him — with Islam.

Even so, he says, authorities have refused to record his daughter’s marriage or to issue a certificate as legal evidence of her union.

“They refused to record the marriage of my daughter simply because her father adheres to an indigenous belief,” he said. “I am living proof of the discrimination against believers in minority faiths.”

LBH Rakyat, rights activists and other campaigners have urged the government to remove religion from the cards.