In Indonesia, a Muslim community enforces, then repeals a ban on non-Muslim residents

KARET VILLAGE is about nine miles from the center of Yogyakarta City, on Indonesia’s main island of Java. The village is beautiful; by motorcycle, the sea is 20 minutes away, and the village is surrounded by fields of green rice plants.

When Slamet Jumiarto learned that there was a house for rent in Karet Village, he quickly arranged for his family’s move. But their stay was not as easy as he had imagined. While the Muslim residents of the village treated them well, their leader rejected the newcomers’ presence. The reason: Slamet and his family are Catholic.

 Slamet, a painter, reported the problem to the governor of the Special Region of Yogyakarta. He also recorded a video of himself describing his experiences, and the video went viral on social media. The local government then asked the village to abolish the rule that prohibited non-Muslims from living there. But while the village complied, and Slamet celebrated the decision, he decided not to stay. Below is his first-hand account, given before the repeal:

 “I am very sad. My wife and children feel the same.

Slamet Jumiarto

“I don’t think this ban on non-Muslims makes sense. Last week, I met with the village leader. He asked me to leave so I would not be expelled. He said that non-Muslims are prohibited from living in Karet Village, and that this rule had been put in place a long time ago.

“In my opinion, this village rule contradicts Indonesian law: the Pancasila, the country’s official philosophical foundation, as well as our constitution. Intolerance like this must be avoided so that Yogyakarta’s reputation is not damaged.

“I have moved many times, and have lived in communities that were mostly Muslim, but prior to this year, I had never been officially rejected.

“Still, I pray: May God give the best to Karet Village.”

In the end, the Yogyakarta government insisted the Muslim leader of Karet Village, Iswanto, repeal the ban on non-Muslim residents, which he did. Slamet commented:  “This was my problem, and it has ended peacefully. I am happy, and I hope that in the future, no one experiences this discriminatory treatment.”

—Antonius Sugiyanto