The Ministry of Religion stated that the Indonesian Religious Harmony (KUB) index in 2019 had improved compared to 2018. The national KUB index average for 2019 was 73.83, improving from 70.90 in 2018. Even so, this figure is still low compared to 75.36 reached in 2015. The government undertook various efforts to maintain religious harmony, including establishing the Religious Harmony Forum (FKUB) through the Joint Regulation of the Minister of Religion and the Minister of Home Affairs. FKUB was established to mediate religious disputes and promote tolerance, including providing recommendations for the construction of places of worship.
The forum, which was founded in 2006, is expected to play a strategic role as a medium for mediating any problems that arise in inter-religious relations. In reality, however, in many cases FKUBs have not been able to solve problems effectively and have not provided recommendations according to their role. Therefore, the Center for the Study of Religion and Democracy (PUSAD) of the Paramadina Waqf Foundation is recommending that the two related ministries establish policies to strengthen FKUB.
Strengthening FKUB through evidence
At the end of 2019 and early 2020, there were several incidents related to construction of houses of worship that sparked controversy about the management of inter-religious harmony in Indonesia. Responding to this incident, policymakers opened the possibility to revisit the 2006 Joint Ministerial Regulation that governs the position and function of the FKUB. Vice President Maruf Amin and Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian even raised the possibility of forming an FKUB at the national level. These steps indicate a response from policymakers to strengthen FKUB. However, there is not enough supporting evidence to determine the direction with which the 2006 Joint Ministerial Regulation is to be improved. There have been separate studies on FKUB at the local level and they are still limited in number.
The study by PUSAD Paramadina fills the lack of evidence related to the 2006 Joint Ministerial Decree and FKUB. PUSAD Paramadina database has compiled the profiles and performance of 167 FKUBs in 24 provinces, 33 municipalities, and 110 districts, or more than 30 percent of the total 548 FKUBs across Indonesia. PUSAD’s recommendations were informed by the results of interviews and discussions with stakeholders and PUSAD’s involvement in FKUB activities.
By distributing FKUB profile and performance questionnaires as well as deepening in several provinces, this study produced three main findings. First, the role of local governments in maintaining religious harmony has not been optimal and equitable. Unclear regulations and lack of mechanisms to ensure accountability of local governments creates a situation where efforts to maintain harmony are still very much dependent on the regional heads’ personal preferences and their proximity to the FKUB. Additionally, municipal government policies often exacerbate conflicts over the construction of houses of worship and make them difficult to resolve. The lack of accountability mechanisms undermine efforts to reprimand local governments for issuing regulations and policies that complicate matters for the construction of houses of worship.
The second finding is related to FKUB resources. FKUB has the modality to play a role in maintaining harmony with the support of resources and membership of religious communities. However, this role is undermined by weak representation and competence of the membership, as well as an unbalanced proportion of their management. Therefore the FKUB’s neutrality and independence from the government and dominant religious organizations are often questioned. In terms of religious representation, the current scheme for determining the composition of FKUB members is actually sufficient to provide space for minority groups and curb majority domination. Despite these efforts, representation from religious groups outside the mainstream is still lacking and the composition of management members continues to be dominated by representatives of the majority group (52 percent). In addition, only 14 percent of FKUB management have professional religious background or are members of the clergy. The dominance of civil servants in the FKUB management makes this institution more a reflection of the government rather than society.
Third, this study finds that provisions regarding the establishment of houses of worship in the Joint Ministerial Decree that gives FKUB the mandate to issue recommendation often hamper FKUB’s role in facilitating communication between religious communities. This mandate, in fact, makes FKUB one of the parties to the conflict. For example, when a building permit (IMB) for a house of worship has been issued but there is opposition to it, the opposing party may think that the FKUB is taking sides with the proponent. The FKUB is even identified as a recommendation issuing institution rather than a mediator, as initially envisioned. In the event of disputes, it is difficult for FKUB to act as a mediator. In fact, only 13 percent of FKUBs have actually handled disputes directly as mediators.
Based on these findings, PUSAD Paramadina proposed several recommendations to improve the effectiveness and accountability of FKUB and improve policies for maintaining harmony in Indonesia in the future. First, apart from making bigger policy improvements at the national level such as improving the Joint Ministerial Decree, the government needs to urge local governments to exercise the mandate of maintaining harmony as stated in Law 23/2014 on Regional Government. Second, the government needs to make provisions to strengthen FKUB’s capacity and accountability. This can be achieved by creating guidelines and provisions related to membership recruitment and organizational management. Third, the government needs to encourage FKUB to further enhance its function in interfaith dialogue by increasing its role as facilitator and mediator in society, and reducing its role as administrator. This can be achieved by relinquishing its function as recommendation issuer from the responsibilities of the FKUB, particularly those related to verification and administration, or by clarifying its status and recommendation procedures.
Increasing the role of women in FKUB
Gender balance continues to be the biggest challenge in FKUB governance. The male-dominated membership of FKUB (92 percent) has limited the space for strengthening the capacity of this institution. At 8 percent, the proportion of women in the management is still far below the representation of women in both the national and municipal parliaments, for example, which requires a minimum of 30 percent. The lack of female representation also reflects the tendency of religious organizations because FKUB members are their delegates.
However, some FKUBs have started to add female members who have a conciliatory perspective by considering the importance of women in reaching certain groups. Female members are mostly found in FKUBs in eastern Indonesian regions with Christian or Catholic majority. One FKUB can have five to seven women, such as in South Minahasa, North Minahasa, and Tomohon in North Sulawesi, as well as FKUB in East Nusa Tenggara Province. In some FKUBs in eastern regions, although the numbers are still small, women also hold strategic positions. FKUB of East Nusa Tenggara Province and FKUB of Tomohon, North Sulawesi, are led by women. FKUBs in Muslim-majority regions that have significant female membership can be found in Bima (West Nusa Tenggara), Tasikmalaya District (West Java), and South Halmahera (North Maluku).
Considering these conditions, PUSAD Paramadina recommends developing technical guidelines to better recruit members and manage FKUB accountability. PUSAD's advocacy to promote more women in FKUB are now being carried out by the Research, Development, Education and Training Agency of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Knowledge Sector Initiative (KSI) contributions
Since 2018, KSI has supported PUSAD Paramadina to gather information and develop a national database as well as capture the profiles and performance of various FKUBs. In collecting this data, PUSAD involved the Ministry of Religious Affairs’ Center for Religious Harmony (PKUB) and included several organizations such as the National Commission on Violence Against Women, the National Police, and research units of political parties in its analysis. In 2019, with support from KSI, PUSAD Paramadina conducted in-depth research in several provinces to strengthen its findings and advocate its recommendations to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Advocacy of PUSAD Paramadina’s recommendations began to receive support from the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2020. The Ministry’s Research, Development, Education and Training Agency supports PUSAD in improving the database by jointly collecting data, analyzing collected data, and compiling joint recommendations to the Minister on way to better strengthen FKUB. On 8 December 2020, the Minister of Religious Affairs launched the database, and the Ministry has been promoting it since then.