Banda Aceh, Indonesia – Muslims and non-Muslims alike are now subject to strict Islamic law in the conservative province of Aceh.
It is the only one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces to impose Islamic law in the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world, with a population of about 250 million people.
Aceh province implemented Islamic law in 2001, but in September the religious “penal code” was extended to everyone, now applying to some 90,000 non-Muslims who live there.
Offences not previously regulated such as adultery, homosexual acts, and sex outside marriage are now punishable with sentences handed down by Islamic courts, including public flogging. Buying or carrying alcoholic beverages could result in 10 strokes of the cane, 10 months in prison, or a maximum fine of 100 grams in gold.
Amnesty International has expressed concern over the law and has called for an end to caning in Aceh, saying it goes against international laws on torture and human rights, as well as Indonesia’s own constitution.
However, a Tuesday report by the Catholic News Service said an expansion of Islamic law to include non-Muslims has had little impact on Christians.
“Until now, no Catholic has been punished for violating sharia law, and I hope that doesn’t change in the future,” Father Hermanus Sahar, pastor of Banda Aceh’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church, was quoted as saying.