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Discriminated by default: the story of an Indonesian Christian civil servant

As part of the Millennial generation that grew up being shaded by the government, Cahaya aspired to serve the country by taking an entrance exam to become a civil servant. At the end of 2018, this Indonesian woman took action and registered for the exam. She eventually passed every step of the test. In 2019, the thrilling announcement came, notifying Cahaya that she would be placed in a government agency in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. She was due to begin the new chapter of her life in May 2019.


To her surprise, she turned out to be the only follower of Jesus in the office. Every other female colleague in the office was veiled. Cahaya easily stood out with her non-Muslim look. She also noticed that some of her Muslim coworkers seem to keep their distance from her. But as a Christian in a Muslim-majority country, this experience is not unique to her.

In Indonesia, all civil servants must obtain a proper ID card for them to receive their status, salary, and benefits. Strangely for Cahaya, this card which should have been issued by the headquarters in Jakarta following her start date seemed to get lost. Eventually, the staff ID never came.

For months, Cahaya did not receive her salary despite faithfully working at the office, since the staff ID was missing. Her name was written on the announcement, so this could not have been a mistake. Cahaya began to lose her patience and decided to find out what caused the delay.

She soon learned that since the test result was announced, the head of her office contacted her superiors and consulted about the new addition at her office – a new staff member who started working and is not a Muslim. They concluded that they were to send an investigation request to the headquarters questioning Cahaya’s credentials. In the letter, the leader claimed that there is a mismatch between Cahaya’s education background and the position to be filled in the office.

The head office in Jakarta received the request and decided to put a halt on Cahaya’s file so that the staff ID issuance can be delayed or never happen. Knowing this, Cahaya then submitted her appeal to an independent government agency which would urge the government to immediately issue the ID card to Cahaya. Yet the process has been very slow and, at the time of writing, she still has not received her ID card.


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