07/12/2021 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – In Indonesia, where Christians are a religious minority, it is often difficult for them to obtain plots of land in cemeteries to bury their dead.
Last week, a Christian family in West Java was charged four million rupiah ($275) to bury their loved one at the Cikadut cemetery, Bandung. Their relative had passed away from COVID-19. According to Indonesia’s COVID-19 policy, all funerals and burials connected to COVID-19 are paid for by the city administration.
The story was posted on social media on July 11th, and many citizens have expressed their anger and frustration or shared stories of similar experiences they underwent. Ema Sumarna, head of the local COVID-19 task force, stated that this price was an example of an “illegal tax” for non-Muslim families.
The Christian family could not afford the price of the burial, which would be equivalent to the lowest wage of a person’s monthly salary. They attempted to negotiate it down to 2.8 million rupiah ($195) but were unsuccessful.
According to Asia News, when the story of the extortion went public on social media, the governor of West Java issued an apology. He promised that he would report the situation to the police. UCA News reported that several funeral workers were fired because of the illegal price they charged to the Christian family. The workers wrote that they also charged Muslims (the majority religion in Indonesia) to bury their dead, claiming that they were not discriminating against Christians.
Frustratingly, authorities did not address the issue until it went viral on social media. Azas Tigor Nainggolan, coordinator of the human rights desk at the Catholic bishops’ Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People, disputed the claim that the funeral workers also targeted Muslims.
“From the victim’s complaint, it is clear she was charged because they were non-Muslims. Discriminatory practices like this continue. The government needs to recognize that there is discrimination based on religion,” he told UCA News.
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