Indonesian Christians confronted with Covid burial extortion

20 July 2021

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Authorities in West Java province, Indonesia, have dismissed several cemetery workers responsible for burying Covid-19 victims after accusations of discriminatory treatment towards non-Muslims.

The workers were sacked following a complaint by Yunita Tambunan, a Christian woman who accused workers at Cikadut cemetery in Bandung district of demanding a charge of 4 million rupiah ($276, £202, €234) of her family for the burial of her father.

Funeral workers in West Java have been fired for charging a Christian woman to bury her father [Image credit: UCA News]

Tambunan claimed in a social media post that she was told that the government did not cover the costs for burying non-Muslims and that she paid the workers 2.8 million rupiah after negotiation. She posted a photo showing the receipt she was issued on payment of the fee.

Redy Krisnayana, the head of the funeral team, admitted receipt of the money but denied obtaining it by coercion, and said he was willing to return it.

The head of the local anti-Covid-19 task force Ema Sumarna described the imposition of a charge upon non-Muslim families as an “illegal tax” since the city administration pays for all funerals and burials for coronavirus victims.

West Java governor Ridwan Kamil apologised for the incident, confirming that funerals for Covid-19 victims were free of charge and that the workers were salaried.

Christian human rights spokesman Azas Tigor Nainggolan disputed a suggestion by Kamil that the workers had also demanded money from Muslims. “From the victim’s complaint, it is clear she was charged because they were non-Muslims. Discriminatory practices like this continue. The government needs to recognise that there is discrimination based on religion,” he affirmed.

Nainggolan added that several other people said they were charged after he highlighted the case on Facebook.

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