Religion in Indonesia

Religion of Indonesia

Religion has played a role in Indonesia's history, culture and even it's economy throughout it's history. Indonesia is a region of multi-culturism, with people from multiple backgrounds and religions all living and working together. The main religions of Indonesia are Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. The majority of its people are Islamic, a religion practiced by 88% of the population. Christians, both Catholic and Protestant represent 8%, and both Hindus and Buddhists represent just 1% of the population.

Trade and travel in the 12th century brought Muslims from Arabia and middle eastern countries. And over the centuries with more people migrating over land and seas, Islam slowly replaced the traditional religion of Hinduism in the larger islands of Sumatra and Java. Other than in Bali, by the 16th century, these islands were largely Islamic. In the eastern regions of 16th and 17th century Indonesia, there were many conversions between Christians and Muslims from one religion to another and the result today is a mixed religious society.

There are few followers of Buddhism in contemporary Indonesia, even with its close proximity to China. Centuries of change and growth has brought Islam to replace the older beliefs of Buddhism that had a strong foothold in the region, especially in Sumatra and Java. There are still many ancient places of Buddha worship and honor still extant in Indonesia, like the stone Temple of Borobudur, for example.

To experience Hindu culture, Bali is the place to see in Indonesia. Bali is known as the Island of the Gods. Hinduism is Bali is a way of life for many of her people. Prayer and meditation is as important the Hindus as the call to prayer is for Muslims. Meditation is commonplace and respected.

The Dutch colonists brought Christianity to Indonesia and the region protected under the watch of Holland for centuries until WWII. In the early days of colonization, Portugal had a colony on East Timor. Christianity was the religion of the conquering Europeans and the expression "might is right" certainly played a role in many native Indonesians converting to other religions.

Confucianism is also a recognized religion in Indonesia. While there was a ban from 1978 to 1998, the Chinese culture of Confucianism is now legally and widely practiced.

In some parts of Indonesia, the ancient religion of Animism, a belief in more than one God, is still practiced by small groups of people. Animism has existed in the region since the 1st century, AD.

Judaism is practiced on a small scale in Jakarta and Surabaya, where the have a synagogue. Jews from Holland settled here during the early years of the spice trade and families still existed in 19th century. Small groups remain and continue to practice.

Efforts to reduce religious tensions among the various faiths in Indonesia brought the Inter-Religious Cooperation Plan and a view to Islamic moderation. There are both moderates and extremist Muslims in Indonesia with the extremists supporting terrorism. The majority of Indonesian Muslims are moderates and are against violence.