Indonesia: Where did all the Buddhists go?

* Little is known about the fate of the Buddhists and Hindus who used to govern Indonesia. There are hardly any records of how the islamization of Indonesia came about. Should we be suspicious? I think yes. Because wherever the sword of the prophet got the upper hand the indigenous infidels were greatly decimated. In light of the Armenian genocide (which Turkey denies) and the wholesale slaughter of millions of Hindus in India we should definitely ask these questions.

Buddhist monks walk through Borobudur temple during a ceremony on Vesak Day in Magelang of the Indonesian Central Java province May 20, 2008.


Indonesian temple a reminder of country’s Buddhist past


* If it wasn’t for the help of international organizations this magnificent  monument of a higher culture would have long been destroyed by the soldiers of Allah, just like the Bamyan Buddhas…

The Buddhist temple of Borobudur, set among volcanoes on Indonesia’s Java island, stands as a testament to the Buddhist roots of the world’s most populous Muslim country.

The temple, the world’s largest Buddhist monument, was built in the eighth and ninth centuries. It is a pilgrimage site for followers from around the region and it is also the most popular tourist attraction in Indonesia.

This week, pilgrims came in their thousands to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. Monks, nuns and devotees, dressed in yellow, saffron, grey and black robes, prayed and circled the grey, volcanic stone temple, which is decorated with reliefs showing scenes from Buddhist texts and from the life of Buddha.

Each year an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 worshippers from Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Singapore and elsewhere gather at Borobudur to celebrate Vesak, boosting local tourism in a country that often struggles to attract more visitors.

“This is the biggest Buddhist temple in Indonesia, so we have come to pray, for Buddha’s birthday and enlightenment,” said Inge Teja, a 27-year-old ethnic Chinese accountant who had come with about 180 fellow-worshippers from Tangerang, near the capital Jakarta.

“At home we don’t have a temple, only a vihara,” she added.

Centuries ago, this part of central Java was ruled by Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms which left their cultural mark on the landscape with scattered temples and statues.

But today, Buddhists, along with Christians and Hindus, are among the religious minorities in Indonesia.

Out of 226 million Indonesians, about 85 percent are Muslim. Indonesia’s ministry of religious affairs says just 1.2 percent of the population are Buddhists. WALUBI, the country’s biggest Buddhist organization, puts the number at 12-15 million, or as much as 6.6 percent of the population.


Borobudur, made up of platforms that form a pyramid shape, is topped with several stupas and statues of Buddha.

Its construction was a considerable human feat, but the temple mysteriously fell into disuse and lay forgotten for centuries until it was rediscovered in the 19th century, covered in ash and vegetation. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

While Borobudur and other Buddhist sites in the area are important historically, there are constant reminders that this is predominantly Muslim territory.

Many of the local women here wear the traditional Muslim head covering. As worshippers gathered at Borobudur, their chants at times competed with the call to prayer from the nearby mosque.

The nearby city of Solo is also considered the heartland for the militant Islamic group known as Jemaah Islamiah, or JI.

The group, which wants to create an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia, was responsible for several deadly bomb attacks in Jakarta and the resort island of Bali.

Back in the 1980s, parts of Borobudur were damaged in a bomb attack. But today perhaps the greatest threat to the monument comes from tourists, including many non-Buddhists who ignore the “no climbing” signs and scramble on top of the stupas to pose for photographs, much to the horror of Buddhist worshippers.

Still, the celebration of Vesak in the Muslim heartland of Indonesia is an important test of religious tolerance in a country that has suffered from several bouts of religious tension since the ouster in 1998 of former President Suharto.


While the autocratic Suharto used the armed forces to crush dissent in the sprawling, multicultural archipelago during his 32 years in power, the transition to a vibrant democracy in 1998 meant it was far easier for religious tensions to flare up.

Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese, who tend to be Christians or Buddhists, and who are often more prosperous than the Muslims, were targeted during riots in 1998.

Religious conflicts also broke out in those parts of Indonesia with large Christian communities, such as Poso and Ambon. But while those conflicts have now been resolved, Indonesia still has a chequered record in dealing with religious freedom and protecting the rights of all its citizens.

Several churches and other places of worship have been attacked in recent years, prompting criticism from human rights groups, for example in the United States.

And in recent weeks, the government has come under intense pressure from hard-line Muslim groups to ban the Ahmadiyya, an Islamic sect that some Indonesians consider “deviant.”

But Buddhists say that they have not been the victims of attacks on the grounds of religious belief.

“If we talk purely about religion, there are no limitations. In 1998, there were rules that Buddhist groups must join WALUBI to be allowed to exist, but after 1998 there are other organizations. Buddhist groups do not have to join WALUBI, they have more options,” said Siti Hartati Murdaya, head of WALUBI.

“I think the freedom of religion in Indonesia is on the right track,” she added.

* That’s not the information we get. Freedom of religion in Indonesia has been derailed, long ago.

(Additional reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu, editing by Megan Goldin)


5 thoughts on “Indonesia: Where did all the Buddhists go?”

  1. Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands, with the trading of spices, Turkey
    came to Indonesia, they (Turkey) started Islam in Indonesia.
    Before they were Hindu’s and Budhist.
    What a disaster and misery Islam is bringing all ove the World.
    All religions, also non-believers, should ban together and fight against it.
    Let all of them go back from the Lands where Islam started and Islamis still is a dominant religion.

  2. Knight 99 Says:

    Not for the faint hearted…………………….Say’s it all.

    Not all the pictures are of muslims killing chistians

    Many of the pictures are in fact non muslim dayaks who slaughtered muslims from Madura in the Dampit massacre.

  3. McCreary,

    “All religions, also non-believers, should band together and fight against it.”

    Yes, that’s the only way to defeat Islam. If we all unite on this single issue, we would be a formiddable force. We could argue about our various differences AFTER we have defeated Islam.

    Funny how, wherever Islam comes, all other cultures disappear.

  4. Shiva>

    Thanks for the correction. I don’t think the fact that some of those photo’s are of “non muslim dayaks” changes my feelings towards the indecent crimes against Christians and the Chinese in Indonesia though (Muslim born or not). Many more such websites document the atrocities throughout the last 20 years quite accurately and are testament to us all that there is no part of that culture welcome in our countries.

    So I’ll add Indonesian Dayaks to my fuck them all list………

    PS: I actually travel to Indonesia frequently and have never had any problems, but it’s always in the back of my mind that at any given moment the hat could drop and I’d in the middle of it. In other words a good day could go very bad quite quickly without ever fully understanding why.

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