Religion in Indonesia Nowadays
Indonesia is a country with the largest muslim populations in the world, but do you know that there are six “official” religions in Indonesia?
The six major religions in Indonesia came to the country through various influences, such as trades, expeditions, kingdom expansions, social works, missionaries, colonialism, and cultural assimilations. Therefore, each religion has a very rich background and history.
Here are six major religions in Indonesia and basic facts about them.
Around 87.6 percent of populations in Indonesia identify themselves as Muslims, making Islam the largest religions in Indonesia. Since Islam’s first coming in Indonesia around the 13th century, the religion has played major roles in Indonesian history. Islamic kingdoms became major political powers in the 15th century, and many Muslim figures played important roles in the country’s struggles for independence.
While most Indonesian muslims are Sunni, this religion has become absorbed into the local culture and created many interesting mixes. Many traditional practices got Islamic influences, and people in some areas also conduct religious practices with traditional influences. Before and during Ramadan, you will see a lot of traditional events in various provinces that celebrate this holy month.
Christian populations in Indonesia consist of Protestants and Catholics, but the Protestants have larger numbers. From total 24 million Christians in Indonesia, about 17 million are Protestants. While Catholic was the first to come to Indonesia, the Protestants quickly surpassed Catholics in numbers. This was due to Dutch policy in the colonial era that limited the activities of Catholic teachings (the Dutch were Protestant-Calvinist).
Just like Catholic, the most Protestant populations are concentrated in Eastern Indonesia, North Sumatra, Borneo, North Sulawesi, and Western Sulawesi. However, you can find various Protestant worship places in other areas in Indonesia.
Despite having fewer followers than Protestant, Catholic was actually the first Christian religion that came to Indonesia. The first Portuguese traders introduced Catholicism to the locals of in Molucca (Maluku), and it was soon followed by the works of missionaries. When the Dutch came and took over the spice trade, it gave more limited space for Catholicism to grow.
Catholic, along with Protestant, is concentrated in Eastern Indonesia. However, the Catholic populations also live in other provinces, including near business and government centers in Java. You can also visit various Catholic churches or worship places outside the Christian-majority areas.
Hindu is the third biggest major religion in Indonesia, with around 1.7 percent of followers from the entire population. You may know Bali as the center of Hindu religion in Indonesia, but do you know that Hindu religion has already been around here since the first century? When the Indian traders introduced the religion, local leaders quickly adopted it because it gave them leverage in political powers.
Hindu religion in Indonesia is slightly different than in India because it shows mixtures of influences from animism beliefs. The caste system is also not enforced. There are even slight mixtures between Hindu and Islam in some local Balinese traditions. Some of the most famous religious and historical sites in Indonesia have Hindu backgrounds, such as Prambanan Temple, Besakih Temple, and Tanah Lot Temple.
Buddhism followers in Indonesia make up about 1 percent of populations. However, Buddhism came in the first century to this country, along with Hindu. The iconic Borobudur Temple is considered the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and despite its status as a popular travel destination, Buddhists still gather here for major religious events.
Many Chinese Indonesians are Buddhists, but there are also other Buddhist followers from different ethnic groups. Religious activities are usually arranged by local monks or organizations.
Confucian religion (Khonghucu/Kongzi) was the last "official" religion in Indonesia, acknowledged by the government in 2004. However, the Chinese populations in Indonesia have long embraced this religion, and the first Kong Hu Chu temple was even opened in 1883. This religion puts emphasis on ethical concepts you will also find in Confucianism philosophy, such as self-cultivation, humaneness, and filial piety.
Khonghuchu followers in Indonesia worship at temples that are called klenteng. Many of these temples also become popular travel destinations and photography objects, due to their rich colors and highly-detailed architectures.
Indonesia also has native religions or beliefs that are followed by a small percentage of populations. Sunda Wiwitan, for example, is a religion that has been followed by a group of ethnic Sundanese in West Java since before the coming of Hindu and Buddhism. Some Javanese also embrace traditional spiritual system called Kejawen, even if they formally follow major religions such as Islam or Christianity.
Some Dayak natives in Borneo still follow an old religion called Kaharingan, and it is even mixed with Hindu influences due to their similarities. The natives of Sumba Island also have an ancient religion called Marapu, in which they worship the spirits of ancestors.
Religions in Indonesia are more than just belief systems, but also parts of cultures and traditions. Of course, you can only experience it if you visit Indonesia and witness local traditions.