It is generally believed that the earliest inhabitants of the Indonesian archipelago originated in India or Burma. Later migrants came from southern China and Indochina and began populating the archipelago around 3000 B.C.
The Dutch East India Company, based in Batavia (Jakarta), dominated the spice trade and took control of Java by the mid-18th century, when its power was already in decline. The Dutch took control in the early 19th century and by the early 20th century, the entire archipelago - including Aceh and Bali - was under their control.
Burgeoning nationalism combined with Japanese occupation of the archipelago during WWII weakened Dutch resolve, and it finally transferred sovereignty to the new Indonesian republic in 1949. Achmed Soekarno, the foremost proponent of self-rule since the early 1920s, became president. In 1957, Soekarno overthrew the parliament, declared martial law and initiated a more authoritarian style of government. Once in power, Soekarno set about consolidating his power through monument-building and socializing the economy, a move that paradoxically created a divide between the "haves" and "have-nots" and left much of the population teetering on the edge of starvation.
Rogue militia groups, widely thought to be controlled and equipped by the Indonesian military, rampaged through East Timor after it overwhelmingly voted for independence in 1999 and local police forces and parts of the army were sent in to quash other rebellions.
A United Nations peacekeeping force brought stability to East Timor, but prompted Indonesian outrage at the "meddling in internal affairs." When the dust finally settled, the East Timorese had been granted independence. Soon afterward, Abdurrahman Wahid became Indonesia's first democratically elected president.
Indonesia faces numerous crises: rising Islamic extremism, military insubordination, official corruption, a fledgling and fragile democratic process and many separatist movements threatening to tear the country apart. On October 12, 2002, bombs targeting Western tourists claimed around 200 lives in Bali. An extremist group with links to Al-Qaeda was responsible.
Religious violence also plagued the Maluku islands, where Christians and Muslims reached a short-lived peace deal in February 2002. In April, though, masked gunmen massacred 14 Christian villagers. Fighting between Christians and Muslims has claimed more than 6,000 lives since 1999. In Irian Jaya and Aceh, guerrillas have been fighting for independence from Jakarta for decades.
In 2005, Indonesia reached a historic peace agreement with armed separatists in Aceh, which led to democratic elections in December 2006. Indonesia faces low-intensity armed resistance in Papua by the separatist Free Papua Movement.
Source: The World Factbook, 2014.
The typical school year runs from August to June. Grades one through six are compulsory but are seldom completed in rural areas. There is a public school system through the university level.
The character of Indonesia's educational system reflects its diverse religious heritage, its struggle for a national identity, and the challenge of resource allocation in a poor but developing nation made up of archipelagos with a young and rapidly growing population.
In 1973 Suharto issued an order to set aside portions of oil revenues for the construction of new primary schools. This act resulted in the construction or repair of nearly 40,000 primary school facilities by the late 1980s, a move that greatly facilitated the goal of universal education.
In general, Indonesia's educational system faces a shortage of resources difficulties in the areas of teacher salaries, teacher certification and finding qualified personnel. Providing textbooks and other school equipment throughout the archipelago is also a significant problem.
The government's emphasis on nationalism, humanism, representative government, social justice and monotheism (Pancasila) in public schools has been resisted by some of the Muslim majority. A distinct but vocal minority of these Muslims prefer to receive their schooling in a residential learning center (pesantren). Usually in rural areas and under the direction of a Muslim scholar, pesantren are attended by young people seeking a detailed understanding of the Quran, the Arabic language, the sharia and Muslim traditions and history. Students can enter and leave the pesantren any time of the year and studies are not organized as a progression of courses leading to graduation.
Indonesia's Constitution provides "all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief" and the government generally respects these provisions; however, some restrictions exist on certain types of religious activity and on unrecognized religions.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs extends official status to five faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Religious organizations other than the five recognized faiths can register with the government but only with the Ministry for Culture and Tourism and only as social organizations. This restricts certain religious activities. Unregistered religious groups cannot rent venues to hold services and must find alternative means to practice their faiths.
The government requires elementary and secondary school students to undergo religious instruction, sometimes that of a religion other than their own.
Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Holidays and Festivals
Indonesia has a rich history full of different art forms, including painting, woodcarving, weaving, dancing, storytelling and puppetry. Batik, a process where patterns are created on cloth with wax and dye, is also popular.
Indonesia is culturally diverse and is home to hundreds of forms of music, with those from the islands of Java, Sumatra and Bali the most frequently recorded.
The most popular and famous form of Indonesian music is gamelan, an ensemble of tuned percussion instruments that include met allophones, drums, gongs and spike fiddles, along with bamboo flutes.
Another popular modern style of music is the Dangdut, with the accompanying dance style. It is so popular that many political rallies have Dangdut performances to attract a larger audience.
Sports and Games
Independence Day, Aug. 17: A significant national holiday; most businesses are closed.
Christmas, Dec. 25: Indonesians spend time with family and friends during Christmas. They put up Christmas trees and celebrate with music, food and dance.
Idul Adha, date changes with the lunar calendar: the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice.
Visit the Compassion blog to read posts about Christmas in Indonesia and Pengucapan (Indonesian Thanksgiving)
Soccer, tennis, badminton, cycling and motor sports are popular in Indonesia.
Indonesians eat rice, vegetables and fruit. Fish and meat are used as a flavoring, instead of as a main dish.
Kenari Fudge Recipe
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tb. water
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds, toasted lightly
In a skillet, melt the sugar in the water over low heat. Add the almonds and mix together quickly. Remove the skillet from heat, drop heaping teaspoonfuls of the fudge onto an ungreased tray. Let the fudge cool before eating and store in a container with a tight cover. Makes 20 pieces.
Compassion in Indonesia
- Apa Khabar? (What's the news?)
- Baik, baik. (It's all good.)
- Selamat pagi (Good morning.)
- sore (afternoon)
- malam (evening)
- selamat (congratulations; also means salvation)
- Piye Kabare? (What's the news?/How are you?)
- Apik. (It's all good.)
- Sugeng enjing. (Good morning.)
- sugeng sonten (afternoon)
- sugeng ndalu (evening)
- selamet (salvation)
- wilujeng (congratulations)
Indonesia Facts and Figures
Compassion began its ministry in Indonesia in 1968 when the Child Sponsorship Program was started. In 2005, the Leadership Development Program began, followed by the Child Survival Program in 2009. In 2007, Compassion Indonesia expanded its ministry into the eastern island of Sumatra. A satellite office was opened in Kupang in 2009 in order to effectively minister to the eastern Indonesia island area known as Nusa Tenggara Timur.
Child Sponsorship Program
Children typically meet at the child development center 4 to 8 hours per week, with the younger children meeting the longest number of hours. Each child development center arranges its program schedule according to when children go to school. Typically they meet in the afternoons after school.
Children are given meals once or twice a week. Meals might consist of rice, meat, vegetables and fruit. The children also get a snack at least once a week. A snack might be cake, bread, or a doughnut and milk. Typical Indonesian foods that are rich with protein, such as tempeh and tofu, are widely provided for the children.
Children participate in extracurricular sports activities at least twice a month. They attend a spiritual camp at least once a year. Cultural activities like traditional dance, painting, singing and music are held at least twice a month, especially for children over 12 years old. For community service, children participate in art ministry, music ministry and vocal performances in Sunday services. Child development centers offer additional activities for adolescents, such as computer training, English courses and practical skills education in automotive repair and sewing.
Parent meetings are held monthly or bimonthly. These meetings focus on sharing practical parenting advice, trainings and workshops.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Indonesia and to experience a day in the life of a child development center worker.
||253,609,643 (2014 estimate)
||Bahasa Indonesia (official, modified form of Malay), English, Dutch, local dialects (of which the most widely spoken of which is Javanese)
||Muslim 87.2%, Christian 9.9% (Protestant 7%, Roman Catholic 2.9%), Hindu 1.7%, other or unspecified 1.3% (2010 estimate)
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.
|Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources
|Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities
||Tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands
|Percentage of population urbanized
||50.7% (2011 estimate)
||Male: 69.59 years
Female: 74.88 years
|Under-5 mortality rate
||31/1,000 (2012 estimate)
|GDP per capita
||$5,200 (2013 estimate)
||Indonesian rupiah (IDR)
|Number of people living with HIV/AIDS
||605,500 (2012 estimate)
|Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day
||16% (2007-11 study)
Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014