Indonesia | 12 July 2022

Indonesia: Collective violence trending upward

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As reported by Benar News on 21 June 2022, a 2021 database compiled by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta records all reported incidents involving violence in Indonesia “including group-on-group violence, such as village conflicts; group-on-individual violence, such as mob attacks; and state-on-group violence, such as violence by law enforcement”. A report on incidents occurring in 2021 shows that while large-scale attacks may be a thing of the past, so-called “collective violence” is trending upwards.

World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller explains: “Indonesia has a history of large-scale and at times very violent conflicts. These were sometimes religiously motivated, and at other times were ignited more by ethnic or economic issues. But as the research from Indonesian thinktank CSIS shows (CVEW, accessed 1 July 2022), in 2021 there were more than 1,200 incidents of collective violence, claiming at least 294 lives, including group-on-group violence. While Indonesia’s political leaders are trying to counter polarization in society (often with an eye to gaining votes in the upcoming elections in February 2024, as reported by New Mandala on 1 July 2022), recent survey results published by the Lembaga Survei Institute provide a somewhat mixed picture. Using a ‘feeling thermometer’ method for measuring polarization, Christians recorded the highest ‘temperature’ of all religious minorities with 49.8 degrees. Only 18% of respondents objected to having Christians as neighbors, but 75% objected to their child marrying a Christian and 44% objected to a Christian being a local leader.”

Thomas Muller continues: “Care must be taken not to give too much weight to such surveys, as can be illustrated by considering the 2021 ban on the Islamist organization, Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). As stated in the New Mandala report, while 63% of survey respondents who were aware of the ban supported it (and only 29% were opposed), social media showed a different story with 50% of postings opposing the ban and only 34% being in favor. This may point to a growing urban and generational division in Indonesia, since a greater number of urban and young people have access to the Internet.”

Thomas Muller concludes: “In any case, small-scale collective violence should not be taken lightly. The CSIS research not only shows that minorities such as Christians clearly suffer from such local conflicts, it is also showing that a disproportionate number of incidents occur in the Papua provinces, amounting to four times the national average. The Papua provinces also have the highest number of casualties, with the much more populous provinces of West and East Java registering the next highest. It is highly doubtful whether the creation of three new provinces in Papua, the plans for which were drawn up in Jakarta without Papuan consultation,  will help ease tensions and reduce violence. On the contrary, observers fear an increased militarization following this decision (Benar News, 30 June 2022).”


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