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Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights, Prof. Dr. Yasonna Laoly, was a keynote speaker at a plenary session of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington DC, United States, on June 29, 2022.


IL News 013/2022

Jakarta – Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights, Prof. Dr. Yasonna H. Laoly, was a keynote speaker at the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington DC, United States (US) on June 29, 2022. In this forum, also present as speakers for one of the sessions were Senior Fellow of Leimena Institute, Prof. Dr. Alwi Shihab, and Executive Director of Leimena Institute, Matius Ho.

In his speech, the Indonesian Minister emphasized that Indonesia’s choice to unite in diversity has already been set as the philosophical foundation of the state, which is Pancasila.

He said that Indonesia is home to around 280 million people, making it the 4th most populous country in the world, encompassing 300 ethnic groups, 700 languages, as well as different cultures and religions. The great diversity of Indonesia is reflected in its national motto “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” which means unity in diversity.

“We have our shortcomings and we face challenges in maintaining harmony among our diverse populace. That is why the founding fathers of our nation were unanimous in choosing Pancasila, which means five principles, as the official philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state,” Yasonna explained in a forum attended by around 1,200 participants.

Yasonna said Pancasila’s five principles were conveyed by the first President of the Republic of Indonesia, Soekarno, during the formulation of the 1945 Constitution, in addition to being a compromise among the different factions at the time.

“Pancasila continues to be the philosophical foundation of the nation that unites the pluralistic Indonesian society to this day,” he continued.

Yasonna stated that religious freedom is a non-derogable right, that is, a right that cannot be violated as a fundamental human right. This is stated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the same way, the Indonesian Constitution, specifically Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution, clearly affirms freedom of religion for everyone, and Article 29 contains guarantees for every citizen to live out his or her religion and belief.

“To fully guarantee the equality of religious freedom for all Indonesian citizens is a fundamental principle that is protected by law and respected by culture as a viewpoint of the Indonesian people,” the Minister said.

Yasonna explained that Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world wherein 87% of the population embraces Islam; the rest are Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and other beliefs. Even so, Indonesia is not an Islamic country with Sharia laws, but it implements a mixed legal system, namely civil law as the primary legal system inherited from the Dutch colonial period, and in some cases the recognition of customary law and religious law for the Muslim citizens.

“We have a long experience in practicing religious freedom even during the colonial rule and before our independence in 1945,” he stated.

Yasonna added that Indonesia is striving intensively to prevent violent extremism within the society by forming counter-terrorism units that work with religious and community leaders, as well as cooperate with other countries in the region to prevent terrorism and cross-border radicalism.

Executive Director of Leimena Institute, Matius Ho, together with Senior Fellow of Leimena Institute and former Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Dr. Alwi Shihab, were also speakers at the IRF Summit for the “Positive Development Story” session, on June 28, 2022.

International Virtual Conference on Religious Freedom

In his speech, Yasonna mentioned the Cross Cultural Religious Literacy (CCRL) program which is being conducted by Leimena Institute and its partners as an example of strengthening freedom of religion and belief through education.

“On June 8, 2022, the Directorate General of Human Rights under my office portfolio signed a Cooperation Agreement with Leimena Institute in partnership with many other organizations and it has resulted in the training of thousands of Indonesian teachers on CCRL,” Yasonna said.

The cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Law and Human Rights and Leimena Institute has been further carried out with the implementation of an international virtual conference on religious freedom which was held just last week (September 13-15, 2022). The said conference with the theme “Religious Freedom, Rule of Law, and Cross Cultural Religious Literacy” was conducted for three consecutive nights in a row with thousands of participants.

Matius Ho shared Leimena Institute’s experience in holding Cross Cultural Religious Literacy training with its partners to build interreligious harmony.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of Leimena Institute, Matius Ho, as a speaker for the “Positive Development Story” session at the IRF Summit, described the CCRL program as a concrete example of peaceful cooperation among adherents of different religions.

“Herein lies the importance of the CCRL program which is being run by Leimena Institute along with its Indonesian partners, because this is a concrete program that has conducted training for thousands of teachers,” said Matius, who was a speaker along with Senior Fellow of Leimena Institute, Prof. Dr. Alwi Shihab, and Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Dr. Ari Gordon.

Matius explained that CCRL underscores three competencies, namely personal, comparative, and collaborative, all of which lead to multi-faith collaboration among adherents of different religions. According to Pew Research, an international research institute, one of the indicators in measuring a country’s religious freedom restrictions is social hostility.

“Building mutual understanding, respect, and cooperation among different religious communities with the CCRL approach can help reduce tensions among religious adherents that is caused by being unfamiliar with each other,” Matius stated.


A Visit to the White House

After attending the IRF Summit, Minister Yasonna together with the Indonesian delegation from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights made an official visit to the White House (West Wing) on June 28, 2022. The Minister and his delegation held a meeting with Mr. Rob Berschinski, Special Advisor to the US President, Joe Biden, and who also serves as Senior Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the National Security Council (NSC) accompanied by Ms. Henrietta Levin, Director for Southeast Asia and ASEAN.

“The meeting discussed various issues related to law and human rights as well as the challenges faced by the two countries,” said the Indonesian Minister as quoted from his Instagram account.

Official visit of Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights, Yasonna H. Laoly, to the US government office, White House, on June 28, 2022 (source: Minister Yasonna Laoly’s Instagram).

The IRF Summit is an annual meeting attended by government and civil society leaders from various countries to discuss challenges and opportunities in promoting religious freedom globally. In addition to the Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights, Yasonna H. Laoly, several figures who were also speakers included Alejandro Eduardo Giammattei Falla (President of Guatemala), Marco Rubio (US Senator for Florida), Mike Pompeo (former US Secretary of State), Nancy Pelosi (Chairman of the US House of Representatives), and Ambassador Rashad Hussain (US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom). [IL/Chr]