Culture and Religion in Indonesia

Garuda Tempel
Indonesia is a nation in Southeast Asia composed of 17,508 islands and a population of 230 million people. While Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, with roughly 86 percent of the population identifying themselves as Muslim, the country has a remarkable array of religious and cultural diversity. Indonesia has a long history of being a transit point for people and goods being transported between Asia and Europe.

Early influence over the area now occupied by Indonesia came from India; both Hinduism and Buddhism came from India as the peoples of Indonesia developed trading relationships with India. Muslim traders began to arrive in Indonesia as early as the 13th century, and began to spread Islam o­n the islands of Java and Sumatra. Islam became the dominant religion o­n those islands, the largest in the present Indonesian state, by the 16th century. It should be noted that from the beginning of its spread in Indonesia, Islam has always been mixed with indigenous belief systems present before the arrival of Islam. Christianity was later brought by the Dutch, who colonized Indonesia starting in the 16th century and ruled Indonesia until 1945.

Church in Kualakencana
The other major religion in Indonesia today is Confucianism, which is mainly practiced by the Chinese minority. Chinese traders began arriving in the 15th century in Indonesia, and later were brought by the Dutch as laborers to work o­n the plantations of Java and Sumatra. The modern Indonesia recognizes these religious and cultural influences today with a constitution that guarantees religious freedom, and recognizes Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism along with Islam as official religions. Despite its overwhelming Muslim majority, Indonesia has been largely free of the religious conflict that has plagued some other Muslim nations. This is perhaps because of its long history of accepting vastly different cultures and influences, and then incorporating them to fashion a culture unique to Indonesia.