Christian students at state-run schools in Aceh Singkil regency, Aceh are reportedly studying Islam on account of a lack of Christianity studies teachers.
Boas Tumangger, a parent, said that the Aceh Singkil Education Agency failed to provide Christianity studies teachers despite the high number of Christian students in the regency.
Boas, who said he experienced the same situation as an elementary and junior high school student in Aceh Singkil, said that Christian students were not forced to study Islam.
“There is no Christianity teacher so Christian students joined the Islamic studies class to fulfill their religion course requirement,” Boas told The Jakarta Post, Monday.
He said that Christian students were taught Arabic culture and language during Islamic studies class.
There are no efforts to indoctrinate Christian students to convert to Islam, he said.
However, religion courses at schools should reflect the various faiths of the student body.
“We have been questioning this for a long time but no attention has been given by the regency administration,” said Boas, who is also chairman of the Aceh Singkil Peace Loving Forum.
Religion is an obligatory subject at state schools. Many parents have complained about the minimum grade needed to pass a religion course.
Education agency head Yusfik Helmi said that Christian students in the Muslim-majority regency had never been forced to study Islam.
Yusfik admitted that there was a lack of Christianity studies teachers at elementary, junior high and high schools in Aceh Singkil but said there were many Christian teachers that taught other subjects.
“We have more than 70 Christian teachers at elementary schools alone,” he told the Post.
He also said that the absence of Christianity studies teachers in Aceh Singkil had never been questioned by the schools, despite some schools being headed by Christian principals.
“We have many schools with Christian principals here, but they have never demanded Christianity studies teachers for their respective schools,” Yusfik said.
He added that although the schools did not provide Christianity studies teachers, Christian students learned about their faith from a pastor or a Christian teacher. Students are not discriminated in Aceh Singkil, he said.
Aceh Singkil Employment Agency head Dirhamsyah said that up until now, no Christianity studies teachers had been promoted to civil servants and assigned to teach at schools in the regency.
He said this was in line with the Aceh Administration Law, in which Islamic studies is given a priority because the majority of people living in Aceh are Muslim.
Aceh is the country’s only province that implements sharia. In October last year, Aceh Singkil was in the headlines after a group of Muslim youths burned down a church in protest of churches operating without permits in the regency. Thousands of people fled to neighboring regencies in North Sumatra after protestors died in a riot.
The regency recently threatened to destroy 13 churches if the Christian community was unable to secure the necessary building permits.
(Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan)