Heresy-reporting app may undermine Indonesia’s religious liberty

Heresy-reporting app may undermine Indonesia’s religious liberty

Catholic News Agency

December 4, 2018

Jakarta, Indonesia

Human rights groups are criticizing a smartphone app being rolled out by the Indonesian government which would allow citizens to file heresy reports against groups with unofficial or unorthodox religious practices.

The app, “Smart Pakem,” is available for download in the Google Play store and was launched by Jakarta’s Prosecution Office, which said it aims to streamline the previously-tedious and complicated written heresy reporting system.

Users can report from their phones the practice of any unrecognized religion, or unorthodox interpretations of the country’s six officially recognized religions: Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Protestantism.

“The objective…is to provide easier access to information about the spread of beliefs in Indonesia, to educate the public and to prevent them from following doctrines from an individual or a group that are not in line with the regulations,” Nirwan Nawawi, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, told AFP.

While Indonesia has a secular government, about 87 percent of the population is Muslim, making it the largest Muslim nation by population in the world. The remaining population is mostly comprised of Christians (10 percent) and Hindus (2 percent).

The constitution of the country officially invokes “belief in the One and Only God” and guarantees religious freedom, but strict blasphemy laws embedded in its criminal code have been criticized by national and international human rights groups.

Critics worry that the new heresy app could further undermine religious tolerance and freedom in a country where discrimination and attacks against religious minorities, and even among different sects of Islam, are not uncommon.

“This is going from bad to worse – another dangerous step to discriminate religious minorities in Indonesia,” Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono told AFP.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice chairman of human rights group Setara Institute, told AFP the app was “dangerous” and will “create problems” if a majority of people decide they don’t like any particular religious minority.

Earlier this year, multiple attacks on Catholic parishes in the country led to Church leaders asking Catholics to be on high alert during Holy Week. On May 13, three bombings at Catholic churches in Indonesia left 11 dead and at least 40 others injured.

Attacks and persecution against adherents to indigenous religions in the country have also increased.

According to AsiaNews, Komnas HAM, an Indonesian human rights group, has called for the removal of the app and requested a meeting with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which told the group that further evaluation of the app was needed before the meeting could take place.