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Freedom of Religion: Somalia Case

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Unlike in other countries where children are supposed to hold books and pens, children in Somalia are forced to carry loaded guns. Children from rural areas and orphans were forced to join armed Somali rebels in the 1980s and manipulated into child labor. Helping the warlords overthrowing the country’s central government, their lives have only got worse as the warlords exploit them for fighting over the control of strategic entities like the airport and seaport. Once the warlords gained power and money by occupying positions in the government, they let the children keep their guns, and giving them no salary, job, or rehabilitation.

Although the warlords don’t have much power as they had in the past and less control over the children, more than 220 children were recruited by the government into the army in 2013. According to the local NGOs, nearly 20 percent of the government’s soldiers are under the age of eighteen and are used for intelligence gathering and combat operations. The government has no plans of removing them from the army since they are short of the workforce to fight al Shabaab, the most prominent terrorist organization in Somalia. The group seeks to control territory within Somalia to establish a society based on its rigid interpretation of Shariah law.

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The country is certainly in a very oppressed condition where they have to fight together to live. However keeping these under-aged children on the battlefields rather than giving them education or jobs will not help the country improve but only leave them with illiterate and uneducated children, most of them scarred with psychological damage. This is a form of violations of the fourth law in the universal human rights declared by the UN, which says “No Slavery”. Hundreds of minors in Somalia were forced to work on the battlefields, without any compensation or any form of payment and rehabilitation for the psychological damage they suffer. The fact is that children under age are being dragged into child slavery is that they are unable to withdraw unilaterally from the work they are given. Although the article talks mostly about child slavery, the heartbreaking condition Somalia has to face has taken away the right to life of many people (third law in the UN Universal Declaration of human rights). People are unable to live in freedom and safety for the reason that they are constantly pressured by terrorism. Furthermore, the children trapped in the vicious circle of slavery are unable to acquire proper education, referring to the twenty-sixth law is declared by the UN.

Basically, a religious belief is something that is supposed to be non-coercive therefore shouldn’t become a pressure for anyone. This is correlating to the eighteenth law, which emphasizes the right to believe in what we want to believe, to have a religion, or to change it if we want. Thus, compromising one’s religious belief is not a respectable action as it violates the right of a person to enjoy freedom of thought.

Freedom of religion is regulated by law because is needed to keep public safety, health, or morals, and basic rights or freedoms of others. For Indonesia, it seems not yet possible, because freedom is interpreted as being free to choose and embrace certain religions only. Unfortunately, according to state regulations, when humans determine their freedom, the country itself does not carry out legal protection, aka discriminatory, especially in terms of protecting religious groups that are often oppressed and marginalized because of their minority. So, if other religions besides Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, then it violates the law. But I think as long as the religious practice or ritual doesn’t disturb others, then it’s fine.

I consider that Freedom of Religion could go either way being good or bad. It provide people the liberty to doing their personalized religions, however, it could make certain religious beliefs be done even though they may not be legal. It is essential to give thought to various perspectives in facing new challenges facing our community. The challenges facing religious freedom will differ between countries and regions based on differences in culture, history, government structure, and other elements. But its protection is fundamental, in my judgment, in helping the development of a democratic society. So, people should be able to practice their religion openly and freely, without any restriction.


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