Southeast Asia has been experiencing a rise of religious intolerance and persecution. Whether it is the growing influence of Sharia law in some countries or the outright oppression of religion in Communist regimes, religious freedom—if anything—is on the decline. Burma and Indonesia are no exception to this. In Burma, a rise of militant Buddhist nationalism has resulted in a spate of persecution against the country’s Christians and Muslims. In Indonesia, a country which grants equal status to all recognized religions, Islamic radicalism is growing. Religious intolerance in these countries has reached a boiling point that threatens the rights and safety of Christians and other religious minorities. This threat has reached a scale that has prompted the Wall Street Journal to call on Southeast Asian countries to do more to protect religious minorities.
10/26/2016 Indonesia and Burma (Wall Street Journal) – Southeast Asia is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse regions of the world, a trait that Burma and Indonesia epitomize. Significant Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian populations have long lived alongside smaller but vibrant Sikh, Baha’i, Confucian and even Jewish communities. But now the tolerance that has made that diversity possible is under threat.
Both Burma and Indonesia emerged from decades of military-dominated authoritarian rule into fragile democracies. Today both are led by civilian democrats, but in Burma the military retains a powerful presence in government, while in Indonesia the formerly ousted military is seeking to re-enter the current administration.
Both countries are also wrestling with rising religious intolerance. Burma’s newfound freedoms are being threatened by a rise of militant Buddhist nationalism, which has unleashed a campaign of cruel hatred and violence against the country’s Muslim minorities and has affected Christians as well.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s tradition of religious pluralism, enshrined in the state ideology of pancasila, which gives equal status to the country’s recognized religions, is being threatened by the rise of radical Islamism. There have been violent attacks on Ahmadi and Shia Muslims, the closure of Christian churches, and tensions between the radicals and the predominant indigenous Sufi Muslim society.