Religious Affair Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin Proposes Legislation to End Religious Persecution in Indonesia
Many political observers have been encouraged greatly by Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s decision to retain Lukman Hakim Saifuddin in his role as Indonesia’s Minister of Religion. Lukman Hakim was appointed to head the Religious Ministry in June 2014, during the waning days of the reign of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono after the previous Minister of Religion, Suryadharma, was forced to resign in disgrace amidst allegations of corruption.
Vowing to clean up a Ministry notorious for its malfeasance, Lukman Hakim made the heroic decision of resigning his new seat in the National House of Representatives (DPR) in order to be legally able to run his ministry for little more than a month before his term as Religious Affairs Minister was set to expire. Popularly seen as plain spoken, tolerant and clean – Hakim has imbued his troubled ministry with a new esprit de corps.
Emboldened with his appointment to the Cabinet of Joko Widodo, Lukman Hakim wasted no time in embracing the populace principles of the President and announced plans to introduce legislations that would protect religious freedom in Indonesia and provide an unparalleled level of protection to religious minorities.
The new legislation represents a dramatic departure from the religiously intolerant stance of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in the past and the ineffectual and half-hearted defense of religious freedom under the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Quoted by The Jakarta Globe, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said, “Over the next six months, we will work on this bill to protect all religious groups, including those outside the six main religions of Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.”
“The bill will protect everyone’s religious rights, especially the rights guaranteed by the Constitution,” Lukman continued. “First, the right to believe in whatever people chooses to put their faith in. There should be a guarantee that everyone is free to choose their own religion or belief, Second, the independence for anyone to practice their belief.”
The new Religious Affairs Minister said he hoped the new legislation would improve the quality of life of the Indonesian people. The new legislation is promised to tackle the closures and violent attacks on churches and religious groups that marred Indonesian history during the presidency of Yudhoyono.
It is also expected that the new law will remove discriminatory and biased measures that have been used to obstruct the building of places of worship in many Moslem-dominated neighborhoods of Indonesia. Lukman Hakim has also pledged to alleviate long-standing discrimination against Ahmadi and Shiite congregations in Indonesia who, through violence condoned in the past part through inaction by police authorities, have now created refugee pockets of people driven from their home communities because of their religious beliefs.
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