Culture & Religion
With so many different indigenous groups spread across a huge number of islands, it will come as little surprise to learn that Indonesia’s cultures and religions are incredibly varied. There is no real Indonesian culture as such, with people identifying with various ethnic groups, tribes, and clans. The biggest ethnic group in Indonesia are the Javanese, who make up around 45% of the population and who live mainly in central and eastern Java. Western Java’s Sundanese are the second-largest ethnic group, accounting for around 14% of the population. Other ethnic groups include the Mandurese, Malay, Balinese, Iban, Dayak, Tionghoa, and Acehnese.
While Indonesia is a secular country that allows freedom of religion, the government only recognises five major religions. Each citizen must declare their religion; it is not permitted for people to have no religion or follow an unapproved belief system. The recognised religions are Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Practically, however, people who wish to follow other faiths and practice animist traditions do so, but declare themselves as belonging to one of the official religions. In some areas, a blend of belief systems and practices can be seen.
The vast majority of the population (more than 80%) identifies as being Muslim. Sharia law is observed in the state of Aceh. Christians make up around 8% of the population, and Hindus account for around 2%. Hindus are largely found on the island of Bali. The Buddhist population is around 1%, comprised largely of people with Chinese descent.
A huge number of festivals are celebrated throughout Indonesia, though some are mainly centred around particular areas. The most widely celebrated events are the two Muslim Eids, with the fast of Ramadan being observed by much of the population.