The religious systems found in Indonesia are comprised of a wide variety of beliefs with 90% of the population claiming to be Muslim. Indonesia is considered to be the largest Muslim country in the world; however, the Islam of Indonesia contains a myriad of current of beliefs (“aliran”), each with a slightly different set of beliefs and practices. There are also groups who practice forms of Buddhism, Hinduism, Greek Paganism and Shamanistic Animism. Christianity is not foreign to Indonesia either with various protestant denominations practiced as well as Roman Catholicism. There also exists a set of practices common to many of the religious currents” (“aliran keagamaan”) which includes patterns of fasting, ascetic labor, communal meals, prayer for the dead, and the keeping of relics.
Indonesia does not have a state religion but there is a legal system to regulate varying beliefs. The State recognizes only 5 faith categories and each religion must fall under one of these in order to be legally practiced. These categories include:
Since 90% of the population considers itself to be Muslim, practicing a different religion —even one considered to be legal— can be difficult. For instance, several church buildings in Indonesia have had to be abandoned since the Muslim controlled local governing bodies would not allow building permits to be granted. This can also make converting from Islam to another religion difficult, yet not impossible as can be seen from Fr. Daniel’s story.
For more information and details on religion in Indonesia, please download Fr. Daniel’s History of the Indonesian Orthodox Church.