Indonesia: Ministry Wants Data on Buddhists’ ID Cards Corrected

Indonesian Religious Affairs Ministry (Kemenag) is calling upon Indonesian Buddhists to change the information on religion, which is not correct. It should be based on the religion they follow in daily life. Some Indonesian Buddhist feels reluctant to change the incorrect information for religion in their Identity cards.

KartuTandaPenduduk or KTP is the Indonesian identity card issue by the government that records among others, one’s religion. In 2006, when the government reviewed the need to have religion in the KTP, there were voices raised to delete it because it will lessen one’s vulnerability to danger in sectarian conflict areas. But the government argued that, it was vital to ensure good harmony among religious groups in the country.

Many Indonesian who practice their own religious teaching, Buddhism, during their daily life, and follow Buddhism, do not have this data in their KTP. Such information inserted in KTP would help to correct statistics about the Buddhist population in the country. Kemenag is referring to the declining numbers of Buddhist followers in Indonesia, and argues that it is not due to the failure of the Buddhist community.

“We need to encourage Buddhists to adjust the data in KTP. If he or she claims to follow Buddhism, just ask the official (local district office) to put ‘Buddha’ (Buddhist) in their KTP,” Director General for Buddhist at Kemenag, JokoWuryanto told journalist.

Joko said, during the press conference of the Tantrayana Buddhist organization Zhenfo Zong Kasogatan’s national meeting in Wihara Vajra Bumi Nusantara, the program has run well for guiding Buddhists in Indonesia. But Buddhist alone feels reluctant to change incorrect data in their KTP. They consider that the mistake is not due to civil administration.

“They often think, they still practice Buddhism in their heart. They don’t care of mistaken data, while they still can go to temples to pray. The statistics reveals two million Buddhist in Indonesia. But the fact is there are about seven million”, Joko noted.

The decline in the number of Buddhists started about 10 years ago, because of the success of family planning programs . "That automatically resulted in a overall population decline, the number of Buddhists decreased . But now, several years later , the number of Buddhists have increased, because the KB (family planning program) has failed," he added.

On the other hand, Kemenag also stressed that there are no small or big distinction between sects of Buddhism in Indonesia. Kemenag sees that seven schools that grew in Indonesia, including Tantrayana are based on the same principles .

All schools stick to the same scripture, Tipitaka ( Pali ). Buddhists around the world, including in Indonesia are obliged to preserve the teachings of the Buddha which are included in the Tripitaka. "Although there are seven denominations, but, these are limited by the ritual. Same sacred scripture of Buddhist teachings refer to the Tripitaka ,"Joko pointed out.

Kemenag sees concord between Buddhists in Indonesia with other religions, especially with the majority Muslims. They also see harmony between religious people as essential in national development .

The roles Buddhists could play in national development can be in a variety of ways. Current government continues to drive the need for increased life skills in rural communities. All skills possessed must be part of the expansion of the creative economy. Kemeng sees religion playing a role here, including Buddhism, especially Tantrayana humanism like that recently shown in the implementation of the planting of ten thousand trees.

Indonesian Zhenfo Zong Kasogatan Council has given big contribution of Dharma for unity in diversity in the country. Indonesian Tantrayana derives from various ethnic groups in general, such as Javanese, Dayak, Chinese. Most of Javanese, which constitutes 60 percent of Indonesian population, come from Cilacap, Temanggung and Lampung. The praying ceremony (Sadhana) is regularly conducted in Indonesian, Javanese and Chinese.

Every Waisak celebration in Borobudur, Central Jawa, the assimilation among many Indonesian ethnic groups exists there. “Every year, we participate in Waisak celebration. The council is active for sermonizing Dhamma, and also support the Indonesian government program in charity, and natural disaster management,” Yusuf Sumartha, one of the council members said.

Yusuf reiterates that the national meeting of Indonesian Kasogatan has also upheld the role of youth. Many Kasogatan laymen from throughout Indonesia, mostly in Java island attended the meeting in Karawaci, Banten province. Kasogatan also feels that youth will play a stronger role in the future in their activities. Therefore, one of the agenda of the meeting, Council members encourage the youth to participate more for the prosperity of the Buddhist community. This is relevant to what the Indonesian government expects from its citizens. As what Joko said during the opening ceremony, Indonesian Buddhist should empower the human resources in villages.

KasogatanZhenfoZong Dharma Council was launched in 1976. This is the only platform where Tantrayana Buddhists and Muslims continue to collaborate in national development and promoting social community.

Tantrayana briefly rallied in Indonesia from 1953-1956 , and the followers continued to grow, spread over 13 provinces . "Tantrayana as part of the five million Buddhists in Indonesia, is the most active, " says Yusuf.

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