Indonesian court overturns law used for religious persecution
Indonesia’s high court has overturned a law used to discriminate against religious minorities for years.
The 2006 law, perpetuated in a 2013 amendment, required all citizens to list religion on their national identification papers but only recognized six options: Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, or Confucian. Applicants could leave religious affiliation blank, but that posed a risk since atheism could be punished under Indonesia’s “dangerously ambiguous blasphemy law,” according to Human Rights Watch.
The requirement made it difficult for animists and followers of native religions to obtain national ID cards, resulting in the denial of various rights. Several native religious followers challenged the requirement, leading to the Constitutional Court review.
“These articles are not legally binding as they contradict the 1945 constitution,” Judge Arief Hidayat said as the court issued its unanimous decision Nov. 7.
Human Rights Watch argues the ruling should provide a starting point for abolishing all laws discriminating against religious minorities. The verdict offered good news for religious freedom in a country struggling against growing Islamic extremism and intolerance against even officially recognized religions like Christianity.
Last month, Muslim objections forced the cancellation of a prayer service for the Reformation’s 500th anniversary. In May, the North Jakarta District Court convicted former Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, of blasphemy and sentenced him to two years in prison. —Julia A. Seymour
Islamic State stronghold grows in Somalia
The United States military on Sunday carried out a drone strike targeting Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Somalia. It’s the second airstrike against the group this month, as experts warn its presence could become a “significant threat.” Defense Department spokesman Col. Rob Manning on Monday said U.S. forces conducted five airstrikes in Somalia against terror group al-Shabaab and ISIS between Nov. 9 and Nov. 12. Manning said 36 al-Shabaab fighters and four ISIS militants died in the attacks. ISIS gained attention in Somalia last year after its militants seized the port town of Qandala in the northern punt land region and began calling it the seat of the “Islamic Caliphate in Somalia.” Analysts warn ISIS could attempt to regroup in Somalia as it continues to lose its strongholds in Syria and Iraq. For more than a decade, Somalia has battled with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab. But ISIS influence continues to grow, with some al-Shabaab fighters defecting to the group. ISIS now has about 200 fighters in Somalia, according to a United Nations report reviewed by Reuters. The UN experts documented at least one shipment of small arms, including machine guns, delivered to ISIS in Somalia from Yemen. —O.O.
Irish nun wins award for work in South Sudan
The Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Society honored an Irish nun for her work supporting children and families in South Sudan. Sister Orla Treacy, who belongs to Our Lady of Loreto religious order, serves as a school principal in the South Sudanese town of Rumbek. She arrived in the town with four other nuns in 2006. Since then they have opened two schools and a medical clinic. As she received her award in Ireland, Treacy said the facilities educate 1,200 students, employ 200 local families, and feed 2,000 people daily. “You just live in the hope that every day you will be able to continue to do what you can do,” Treacy said. —O.O.
Taliban kills 27 police officers in Afghanistan
Taliban fighters killed at least 27 policemen after an overnight attack across Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, officials confirmed Tuesday. Matiullah Helal, the provincial police spokesman, said the insurgents killed 22 police officials and injured at least 15 others in two districts. Helal said police officials engaged the militants in a gun battle that lasted for hours, killing some 45 Taliban fighters. Naway District Gov. Sarajuddin Sarhadi said the militants killed five police officers in his district. The Taliban has increasingly targeted Afghan forces and claimed responsibility for the latest attack. —O.O.