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In Indonesia, polarization has become fervent, leading to differing dynamics of exclusion and inclusion across religious and ethnic groups.

Assessed Groups

  • Faith Affiliation and Beliefs
  • Rural-Urban Areas
  • Racial-Ethnic Group(s)

Indonesia successfully transitioned from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one in 1998. This shift, known as the Reformation era, is characterized by inclusive policies. For example, Indonesia boasts inclusive policies and social protections for ethnic and religious minorities. However, in practice, Javanese Muslims often dominate public spaces as the majority group over ethnic and religious minorities. The gap between pluralist policies and their implementation, thus, creates barriers to social inclusion for members of ethnic or religious minorities. To more fully realize the national motto, ‘Unity in Diversity’, Indonesia should begin working to recognize and redress inequalities affecting minorities. This assessment was completed in 2022.


Opportunities to strengthen religious pluralism dim under religious majoritarianism

Although a Muslim-majority country, Muslim minority groups have not been allowed to thrive in the same ways as Javanese Muslims. The Shi’a and Ahmadiyah communities face laws on building places of worship that indirectly discriminate against them.

In some cities, Shi’a and Ahmadiyah celebrations are banned and even considered adversarial. Although Indonesia scores high in the inter-group trust indicator, these dynamics pose a threat and significantly weaken pluralism. These divides, likewise, contribute to the rise of horizontal conflicts in the island country.

Disengagement between federal policies and provincial implementation results in discrimination.

There is a strong disconnect between federal pluralist policies and their implementation at the provincial or district level. This is often detrimental to minority communities, as implementation can be biased to favour the majoritarian Javanese community.

Channels to address this disengagement are also not straightforward. Although many cases challenging discriminatory implementation reach the Constitutional Court, this Court is unable to create changes in provinces or districts.

Drivers for Pluralism in Indonesia

These best practices are driving and enhancing pluralism in Indonesia.

Recognition of UNDRIP

Courts in Indonesia have historically ruled in favor of Indigenous land claims and the complete implementation of UNDRIP locally.

Vibrant Civil Society

CSOs are active advocates for pluralism, and in Indonesia, they allow for dialogues between religious leaders and political figures while promoting religious diversity.

Trust Being Rebuilt

Traditional practices such as pela or gandong have fostered trust, bonds of unity and kinship between lands or villages either Christian or Islamic.


Commitments and Implementation

Indonesia can increase partnerships between the government and civil society. By fostering collaboration and partnerships between the government and civil society organizations focussed on the development of inclusive policies and legislation, pluralism can be enhanced across Indonesia.

Inclusive Citizenship

Indonesia can facilitate access to civil registries and government services that provide Kartu Tanda Penduduk, or national identity cards, particularly in rural areas and remote locations populated by adat communities. This can result in more inclusive citizenship and an increased sense of belonging across minority groups.


The Indonesian government can accord full recognition to Indigenous groups and protect the rights of Indigenous communities in ways that meet international standards. This can include the recognition of Indigenous groups’ authority in adat forests and the enforcement of the right to free, prior and informed consent.

Policy Implementation

Although Indonesia’s national ideology (Pancasila) recognizes and respects diverse backgrounds, several minority religious groups (such as the Ahmadiyah and Shi’a communities) face bans on their religious practices. By working with the impacted communities, the Indonesian government can develop strategies to promote respect for minority religions and provide protections to these groups.


Legal Commitments

International Commitments

Average score: 7.5

Indonesia is strongly engaged with international legal commitments and their monitoring bodies. Indonesia also plays an active role in the Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN). In this role, Indonesia has prioritized gender-based and children’s rights initiatives. This showcases, overall, Indonesia’s strong commitment to achieving pluralism.

National Commitments

Average score: 7

Indonesian laws tend to show a strong commitment to human rights. Since the beginning of the Reformation era in 1998, Indonesia has prioritized the protection of minority groups. However, there is a lack of regulation for how the state guarantees religious freedom. For example, some laws indirectly discriminate against religious minorities.

Inclusive Citizenship

Average score: 7

Indonesian citizenship is generally inclusive and accessible. Citizenship is recognized through identity documents, including the Kartu Tanda Penduduk (KTP). Access to KTPs can be challenging for communities living in rural or remote areas. In 2019, approximately 121 Indigenous communities had limited access to government services due to the lack of a KTP. This lack of access poses a significant challenge to voting rights.


Policy Implementation

Average score: 6

There is a gap between national policy and its implementation in Indonesia. This gap has allowed for religious intolerance and has negatively affected the status of religious freedom. This gap has also affected women. For example, restrictions on travelling at night limit women’s access to work and a livelihood.

Data Collection

Average score: 7

Indonesia is relatively good at collecting data on socioeconomic disparities, access to healthcare and gender. There are still some challenges in data collection processes. For example, Indigenous beliefs are not included in the census and are thus not represented. Other challenges include data collection in remote, hard to reach areas. Marginalized groups are excluded from the census in those areas where people often lack a KTP.

Claims-making and Contestation

Average score: 6.5

All Indonesians legally enjoy civil and political rights. However, claims coming from majority groups, like the Javanese, are more likely to be heard and responded to. The same cannot be said for ethnic minorities, such as rural Indigenous communities or the Balinese. When making claims, these groups are silenced, defeated in court, or faced with violence.

Leadership for Pluralism

News Media: Representation and Prominence of Pluralistic Actors

Average score: 6.5

There is a lack of diversity in Indonesia’s media, as it tends to appeal to majority groups. Media does not tend to pay attention to minority groups and tends to be provocative when addressing ethnic conflicts. The media’s portrayal of religious minority groups, for instance, is often inaccurate, putting at stake Indonesia’s cultural richness and acceptance of diversity.

Civil Society

Average score: 8

Civil society in Indonesia has played an important role in promoting pluralism. Religious CSOs actively advocate for religious tolerance and respect for different faiths. Other Muslim NGOs focus more specifically on promoting Islam as a peaceful religion that welcomes diversity. Overall, the civil society landscape has allowed for dialogues between religious leaders and political figures.

Private Sector

Average score: 7

The Indonesian government has emphasized the need for businesses to respect and promote human rights. As such, Indonesia’s private sector prioritizes employees based on gender, religious minority status and ethnic minority status. There are also best practices for gender representation in the workforce and in leadership roles. This includes gender-responsive facilities and maternity and paternity leave.

Group-based Inequalities


Average score: 6

Indonesians are able to exercise their right to vote or run for elected office, as long as they have the required KTP (note that Indigenous groups do not have equal access to the KTP). However, not all groups are represented equally by political parties. In recent years, identity politics have overtaken the political landscape and has been destructive to Indonesia’s diversity. This has resulted in the isolation of minority groups from politics.


Average score: 6

Nearly 92 percent of respondents to the Pluralism Perceptions Survey see income distribution as fairly unequal. Although Chinese Indonesians are a minority group, they have quickly become economic elites. Economic inequality has resulted in violent conflict in some provinces. This is often due to resource allocation and employment opportunities that can perpetuate disparities.


Average score: 6.5

So long as Indonesians have valid KTPs, citizens have access to public goods and services. Although most Indonesians will have access to public education, equal access to quality education remains a challenge. Lack of access to quality public services impacts rural and remote areas the most. In many cases, this results in higher socioeconomic inequalities.


Average score: 7

Indonesia’s national ideology recognizes and respects diverse cultural expressions. Despite this, there is an increasing trend of Islamization across many aspects of Indonesian life. Certain cultural expressions are not welcome in the public. For example, Indigenous beliefs have been seen as adversarial and their celebrations have been banned in various cities.

Access to Justice

Average score: 6

Indonesia’s judiciary is relatively strong and independent. Litigation processes, in contrast, are seen as complex, time-consuming and expensive. As such, most groups use informal legal mechanisms to settle disputes. Minority religious groups are most affected by unequal access to justice and often face unequal treatment by law enforcement.

Intergroup Relations and Belonging

Intergroup Violence

Average score: 6.5

Intergroup violence emerges from two factors: first, feelings of superiority of one group over another. Second, due to a lack of tolerance towards different religions. Religious minorities such as the Sh’ia and Ahmadiyah communities have been the most targeted by violence. The Reformation Era, which saw the strengthening of ethno-religious identities, has seen a rise in horizontal conflicts for this same reason.

Intergroup Trust

Average score: 7

Intergroup trust between different communities tends to be at acceptable levels. In rural areas such as Ambon, villages create bonds of fraternity or solidarity. In rural areas, this has allowed Christians and Muslims to rebuild trust instead of maintaining hostility. This has allowed segregated communities to live comfortably and securely.

Trust in Institutions

Average score: 6.5

Public trust in institutions is quite low across Indonesia. It is particularly low for law enforcement and the judiciary. This is possibly due to the perception of widespread corruption. On the other hand, trust in the Indonesian health system has improved. This is due to recent efforts to make healthcare services more widely accessible.

Inclusion and Acceptance

Average score: 7

Regardless of their different backgrounds, individuals living in rural or urban areas feel included in society. Findings from the Pluralism Perceptions Survey show that inclusion and acceptance in the workplace or marriage have also been positive. Feelings of exclusion among minorities are most noticeable in the province of Aceh.

Shared Ownership of Society

Average score: 7

Findings from the Pluralism Perceptions Survey show that most respondents identify as Indonesian. Across the country, this feeling is related to different groups working together during the anti-colonial struggle. This perception is in line with Reformation Era approaches to reduce ethno-nationalism.