14.08.15 | News, Press Reports

Indonesia 70 years after independence: an emerging economy full of contrasts

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On 17 August this year, Indonesia holds the festivities marking the 70th anniversary of its independence. Indonesia proclaimed its independence from the Netherlands on 17 August 1945 while it was still under Japanese occupation. However, this was only ratified by the colonial power after a four year battle in 1949. The independence festivities include parades, national competitions and flag ceremonies.

After India and China, Indonesia is the fastest growing economy in the world today and could become the seventh largest world economic power by 2030. Over the years, this rapid development has improved the quality of life and the livelihood of the population but it also has its downsides. The population is increasingly suffering from environmental problems. The soil is being poisoned by enormous rubbish tips and climate change resulting from deforestation is hitting hard, especially the poorest. Indonesia is the largest palm oil producer in the world. Rain forests, the size of the Netherlands, have already been chopped down to cultivate palm trees. The uneven distribution of profits from this and other natural resources in the enormous country is also resulting in frequent tensions in the Eastern regions of the island nation.

The inhabitants of Indonesia originate from various ethnic and religious identities. In the country with the largest Muslim population in the world (87.2% are Muslims), 9.9% of the population are Christians and there are other religious minorities such as Hindus, Buddhists and Taoists. The unity of the country which has over 300 ethnic groups and 700 languages is rooted in the Pancasila, the fundamental order of the state in which the founding fathers established five pillars of coexistence which include the democratic constitution of the country and acceptance of religious diversity. Recently, Muslim fundamentalists have questioned these pillars and want to change Indonesia into an Islamic State. However, the election of reformer Joko Widodo as President in autumn 2014 shows that the great majority of Indonesians refuses to distance itself from the Pancasila. After deposition of the dictator Suharto, Joko Widodo stands for the continuation of the democratic transformation process and for a secular state.

The focus of UN sustainable development goals, which form the post-2015 development agenda, lies in particular on environmental protection and reducing poverty. The Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS) is making its contribution to these development goals and to reducing social tensions in Indonesia by supporting projects organised by its nine Indonesian churches, for example rubbish recycling on Bali, promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue and agricultural development.

Please contact Hans Heinrich, EMS Liaison Secretary for Indonesia, if you have any questions relating to current regional topics such as Interreligious Dialogue, Environmental Protection and projects carried out by EMS member churches in Indonesia.

Hans Heinrich studied geography and ethnology at the Ruprecht Karls University in Heidelberg. He worked as agricultural advisor for six years, as organisation and project consultant in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, for two years and as Regional Representative for the Church Development Service in the Protestant Church in Baden for 11 years. He has been Head of Indonesia Unit at the EMS since 2009.

Press contact:
Regina Karasch-Böttcher, Head of Press and Public Relations Unit, karasch@ems-online.org, Tel. +49 711 636 78 85, +49 178 62 000 52

Hans Heinrich, Head of Indonesia Unit, heinrich@ems-online.org, Tel.: +49 711 636 78 36