Indonesia’s Minuscule Budget for Religious Tolerance

by Guinandra Jatikusumo

Both international and local media, over the past few years, have reported clashes among citizens of the red-and-white nation in relation to a rise in religious intolerance within the country. A report from the Jakarta-based Center of Strategic and International Affairs (CSIS) demonstrates that major contributors to such disharmonies, in addition to the society itself, include the government. Recent occurrences seem to be validating the finding. The social media, for instance, has recently been infuriated by a statement from Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs regarding his proposed stratagem to lower the degree of violence in Sampang, a village located in the island of Madura. Below is an excerpt taken from the Jakarta Post:

Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali says converting Shiite Muslims to the Sunni Islam … would be the best way to prevent violent outbreaks between the sects in Sampang, East Java.

All of these turbulences made me wonder: how much of Indonesian taxpayers’ money does the Indonesian government spend on promoting religious tolerance? My rough calculation, unfortunately, leads to a dismal conclusion. This year, 2012, only Rp 20 billion out of Rp 39.3 trillion goes to endeavoring in making Indonesians affiliated with different beliefs sit side by side peacefully. Only approximately 0.051% of the Rp 39.3 trillion goes to minimizing religious intolerance.

Today’s publication in the Jakarta Post reflects a similar grim situation in regards to the ministry’s 2013 allocation for programs related to interweaving acceptance across beliefs. The proposed budget allocation for the ministry has been raised to Rp 41.7 trillion, but only 13.33% of which is allocated for “contingency spending,” of which, I believe, finances for promoting religious tolerance will be a meager portion.

Side note: An official article featured on the website of Indonesia’s Secretary of Cabinet states that the Ministry of Religious Affairs is one of the ministries that is expected to receive an allocation of more than Rp 20 trillion in 2013. It ranks as the fifth, higher than the Ministry of Transportion and Ministry of Health:

1. Ministry of Defense (Rp 77.7 trillion) | 2. Ministry of Public Work (Rp 69.1 trillion) | 3. Ministry of Education and Culture (Rp 66 trillion) | 4. Indonesian National Police (Rp. 43.4 trillion) | 5. Ministry of Religious Affairs (Rp 41.7 trillion) | 6. Ministry of Transporation (Rp 31.4 trillion) | 7. Ministry of Health (31.2 trillion).