Fighting for ecological justice

Fighting for State Recognition

Indonesia has many ancestral religions that the state does not recognize yet. One of them is the Kaharingan religion. In 2015, Wancino, a member of Kaoem Telapak, founded the Kaharingan Institute to promote the Kaharingan religious identity so that it would gain recognition.

Since its establishment, the Kaharingan Institute has routinely done assessments to protect the sacred sites of the Kaharingan religion. Wancino added that he had established communication with the Indonesia Indigenous Religion Council (MLKI), an organization home to adherents of ancestral faiths in Indonesia. In Central Kalimantan, where Wancino lives, there is no MLKI branch office yet. “Maybe in the future, we will join (to MLKI – ed)”, he said.

According to Wancino, not only advocating the recognition of the religion but Kaharaingan Institute also engaged in other issues, such as environmental and social issues. The Kaharingan Institute had allocated around 100 hectares of land to build educational facilities, health facilities, the Orangutan Auditorium, and an ironwood commodity seed bank.

“Kaharingan is very well known in Kalimantan. It used to be called the Helo religion,” said Wancino. He said there are similarities in teaching between the Kaharingan religion and the others. “We believe in God, life after death, live life sincerely.” Kaharingan also has a transcendental concept, namely how humans relate to God Almighty, and horizontal relationships, namely how humans relate to fellow humans, nature, and ancestors.

Wancino, Member of Kaoem Telapak, founder of Yayasan Kaharingan Institut

However, the situation for the Kaharingan adherents still needs to be solved in Indonesia. The Indonesian Kaharingan Religious Council visited the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) office in 2018. At that meeting, the adherents reported that they could not include Kaharingan in the religion column on their identity cards (KTP). They also stated that civil officials force them to join one of the religions officially recognized by the government.

The situation makes Wancino feel discomfort. Many people need to understand the difference between religious rituals and traditions. They are often confused and see Kaharingan only as a tradition. As a result, many Dayak people write down their religion on a recognized KTP but still keep practising Kaharingan every day. “Just choose which religion, don’t mix it up,” said Wancino.

Even in the education system, Kaharingan subject has yet to be available. Wancino shared his experience with his children. When they attended public school, the school asked them to learn other state-official religions. The schools should have other mechanisms so the children can still access Kaharingan spiritual lessons. “If you don’t want to convert to other religions, the school must have another way of providing it,” said Wancino.

Wancino hopes the government can open access to Kaharingan religious learning and consequently carry out the mandate for religious freedom stated in the constitution. “Follow the order on freedom of religion and provide access to religious education in public schools,” said Wancino.