Country Profiles


Religious intolerance and tension between religious groups have led to attacks on schools attended by minority Muslim sects and Christian schools in particular.782

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Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, including a range of Muslim sects; there are also other religious denominations and many ethnic groups.783

There are demands for independence in some provinces and threats from an Al-Qaeda-linked network, Jemaah Islamiyah.784 To combat this, the state has targeted religious militants.785

Net primary enrolment was 94 per cent, net secondary enrolment was 75 per cent, and gross tertiary enrolment was 27 per cent (2011). Adult literacy was 93 per cent (2009).786

Attacks on schools

At least a dozen attacks on schools attended by minority Muslim sects – Ahmadiya, Shia and Sufi – and on Christian schools were reported by media and human rights sources in 2009-2012. 

In 2011, during a mob attack on Ahmadiya followers in Cisalada, militants burned down homes and schools.787

On 15 February 2011, approximately 200 militants attacked an elite Shia boarding school for kindergarten to high school students in Bangil, East Java, throwing stones, smashing windows and destroying a guard post. The attackers left after the police fired warning shots, but the incident left nine students injured.788 There were four more attacks on the school in 2010 and 2011. In one incident in 2010, bullets hit the windows of a female dormitory. In two incidents in February 2011, the female dormitory was stoned, damaging the ceiling.789

On 29 December 2011, Sunni militants attacked the Shia community in Nangkernang hamlet, reportedly burning a religious school (madrassa) in addition to several houses.790

Five Catholic schools were attacked by young Muslim extremists. One of the assaults, on St. Bellarminus Catholic School in Bekasi in May 2010, was reportedly in retaliation for perceived ‘blasphemous’ comments on a blog.791 On 8 February 2011, a Catholic school complex was destroyed in Temanggung by an angry mob. Police believed the attack was the result of rumours spread by text messages that the defendant in a religious blasphemy case would be given a light sentence.792 In January 2012, three Catholic schools in Yogyakarta, Central Java, were attacked, one by a group of 25 militant Muslims. An investigation found that the motive was an alleged anti-Islamic posting on Facebook, but that it had been posted by someone falsely claiming to be a student at one of the schools.793

Attacks on school students, teachers and other education personnel

Two people were killed and at least six were injured in a Sunni attack on a group of students and teachers from a Shia boarding school in Bangil, East Java, as they returned to school via minibus after visiting their families in Sampang, East Java, on 26 August 2012. Around 500 machete-wielding men were involved in the attack.794 Later that year, Sunni militants attacked a Sufi learning house in Jambo village, Bireuen regency, Aceh, and killed Teungku Aiyub, the leader of the house, allegedly because he was a heretic. A student-cum-assistant also died in the attack.795

Military use of schools

A police raid in November 2012 on Darul Akhfiya School in Nganjuk, East Java, found rifles, ammunition and a cleaver. Police said they suspected the school was training Islamist militants.796

Attacks on higher education

The director of the National Counter-terrorism Agency claimed in November 2010 that there had been an increase in religious extremism among university students and that a growing number of individuals engaged in terrorist activity were being indoctrinated on college campuses. A study by Islamic scholar Zulfi Mubarak from Malang Islamic State University said recruiters targeted science and engineering students to make explosive devices.797

In August 2012, one student was reportedly killed during a raid by police, army and counter-terrorism personnel on Cenderawasih University, Abepura. A further 11 students were reportedly held by police and some were tortured. One possible reason for the attack was that the students came from the same tribal group as many members of the non-violent campaigning group, the West Papua National Committee.798

Attacks on education in 2013

Isolated incidents continued in 2013. According to a Human Rights Watch researcher, in March a Sunni mob destroyed the gates of the Al-Mujahadah Foundation, a Sufi madrassa in southern Aceh, while police reportedly stood by; in July, a dormitory of the same school was burned down and a month later its compound wall was reportedly destroyed.799 The gates were destroyed on the same day that the South Aceh regency government ordered students to leave the facility in response to a ruling by Aceh’s Ulama Consultative Council that its teachings were ‘false’.800 On 6 August, a petrol bomb was thrown at a Catholic high school in Jakarta, an act that may have been timed to coincide with the end of Ramadan.801


782 This profile covers attacks on education in 2009-2012 and has an additional section on attacks in 2013.

783 HRW, In Religion’s Name: Attacks against Religious Minorities in Indonesia (New York: HRW, February 2013), 16.

784 Ibid., 14, 19-20.

785 AFP, “Indonesian police detain 49 in school terror raid,” South China Morning Post, 13 November 2012.

786 UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), “Education (all levels) Profile - Indonesia,” UIS Statistics in Brief (2011).

787 Vento Saudale, “Young attackers of Cisalada Ahmadiyah sent to prison,” Jakarta Globe, 14 April 2011; and HRW, In Religion’s Name: Attacks against Religious Minorities in Indonesia (New York: HRW, February 2013), 89.

788 HRW, In Religion’s Name: Attacks against Religious Minorities in Indonesia (New York: HRW, February 2013), 58-9.

789 Ibid., 59.

790 You Tube account hariri58, “Aksi Pembakaran Kelompok Syiah oleh Sunni di Sampang Madura,” 29 December 2011,; and information provided by a Human Rights Watch researcher, July 2013.

791 “Blasphemous blog post leads to school attack,” UCA News, 7 May 2010; and The Associated Press, Bekasi, “Islamists eye proselytizing Christians,” The Jakarta Post, 3 July 2010.

792 “RI govt urged to address religious intolerance,” Antara News, 9 February 2011.

793 Mathias Hariyadi, “Muslim students attack Catholic schools in Yogyakarta over a Facebook post,” 25 January 2012.

794 Dessy Sagita, Amir Tejo, and Markus Junianto Sihaloho, “Two Killed as Hard-Liners Attack Shia School Group,” The Jakarta Globe, 27 August 2012; “Yudhoyono turns a blind eye,” The Australian, 1 September 2012; “SBY: Lack of intelligence let down Shia victims,” The Jakarta Globe, 28 August 2012; and AFP, “Two Shiite Muslims killed in mob attack in Indonesia,” Tehran Times, 27 August 2012.

795 “Bentrokan Di Balai Pengajian, 1 Tewas Terkapar,” Warta Aceh, 17 November 2012; HRW, World Report 2013: Indonesia (New York: HRW, 2013; and information provided by Human Rights Watch on 6 November 2013.

796 AFP, “Indonesian police detain 49 in school terror raid,” South China Morning Post, 13 November 2012; and Farouk Arnaz, “Islamic School Head Arrested in Terrorism Sweep Faces Forgery Charge,” The Jakarta Globe, 19 November 2012.

797 Anita Rachman, “Terror Agency to Deal with Extremism at Indonesian Universities,” The Jakarta Globe, 8 November 2010.

798 West Papua Media, “Police torture students after brutal attack on Abepura university dormitory,” West Papua Media Alerts, 28 August 2012.

799 Andreas Harsono, HRW researcher, “Sufi Muslims feel the heat of Indonesia’s rising intolerance,” The Jakarta Globe, 15 August 2013.

800 Ibid.

801 Ryan Dagur, “Bomb attack at Jakarta Catholic school sparks security alert,” UCA News, 7 August 2013.