Human Rights and Freedom of Religion in Indonesia

On my bus ride Twitter perusal this morning I cam across this tweet from Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom.


I would love to visit Jakarta, Indonesia and especially its expansive religious buildings. But there was more news about Indonesia this morning:

Bali Nine executions: Tony Abbott to recall Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia

Yes, to the anger and outrage of much of the world yesterday, Indonesia killed 8 people because they were involved in drug smuggling. The death penalty is a violation of international human rights norms to begin with, but to do it for drug crimes is particularly abhorrent. A number of the prisoners executed were Australian which is why Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is recalling his ambassador.

Canada has two ambassadors in Indonesia at the moment, one is our diplomat, the other is our Ambassador for Religious Freedom. No indication they will be withdrawn in protest. I had no idea what he is doing in Indonesia, or what he expects to accomplish, until I found this on the interwebs:

In August of last year, Minister Baird announced the first three religious freedom projects. In Nigeria we are funding a two-year and roughly $553,000 project to promote interfaith dialogue and conflict mediation between different communities, specifically Christian and Muslim communities. With the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE, we are launching a three-year project worth just over $670,000 with the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, to promote international standards on freedom of religion, focusing on recognition of religious or belief communities in eastern Europe, central Asia, and the south Caucasus. In Indonesia we are launching a $260,000 project with the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace to produce annual reports on freedom of religion and belief, increase understanding by religious communities of their constitutional rights, provide advocacy and networking tools to religious communities, and provide training for teachers on religious tolerance and pluralism.

So he is likely there in connection to the quarter million dollars Canadians are giving the Setara Institute to promote religious freedom. Not likely to demand Indonesia recognize the right to believe and not and ask them to get rid of their law that literally criminalizes atheist expression and resulted in the arrest and jailing of  Alexander Aan in 2012 for writing “God doesn’t exist” in social media.

This highlights the strange and, frankly, offensive fact that Canada has established an office in Foreign Affairs to support only one human right. There is no office for Human Rights, no ambassador. No millions of dollars funding promoting gender equality in Saudi Arabia, promoting gay rights in Russia. Meanwhile Baltimore burns because of racism.

And, on my dime, Ambassador Bennet gets to tour the world’s third largest mosque. I would love to see the Istiqlal Mosque one day, but I am now afraid to go to Indonesia, because it is illegal to promote atheism there. And Indonesia executes people, today drug trafficking, maybe tomorrow for blasphemy. I have little hope that my Ambassador is promoting my rights in that country, or anywhere else.

Impress us Ambassador Bennet. Be courageous. Make a statement in support of Alan Aan, or are you also afraid you will be imprisoned? (Hint: you have diplomatic immunity.)


About Brian Green Adams

I am an atheist in Canada. I know something about law. "Brian Green Adams" is a pseudonym, taken from Brian Eno, Robert Green Ingersol, and Douglas Adams. Three of my favourite atheists. Not to mention The Life of Brian, Brian Green (physicist), Eno's "Another Green World", and Adam from Genesis in the Bible. The connection to Brian Adams is an unfortunate coincidence, though I was very fond of him when I was 12.
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One Response to Human Rights and Freedom of Religion in Indonesia

  1. Liz says:

    I’ve been reading about the Bali 9 case. Scary, indeed. Scarier to think that this religious freedom right is more of a priority than abolishing the death penalty, which SHOULD be the priority. Out of the 8 who were executed, 1 of the men was a Brazilian who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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