A Christian woman residing in the Hindu-majority island of Bali was sentenced to 14-months in prison for calling Hindu offerings “dirty and disgusting,” the Supreme Court recently announced.
“The defendant Rusgiani, who is also known as Yohana, has been proven validly and convincingly guilty of purposefully and publicly expressing herself in a way to ignite conflict and defame a certain religion in Indonesia,” A.A. Ketut Anom Wirakanta said during the trial at the Denpasar District Court as written in the court ruling. “[The judges] have sentenced the defendant to one year and two months in prison.”
The ruling was published by the Supreme Court earlier this month, even though the ruling was delivered on May 14 in the Denpasar District Court. Rusgiani has been detained in Bali since January.
The punishment was lighter than the two years imprisonment demanded by prosecutors.
The incident occurred on Aug. 25, 2012. Rusgiani, a Christian who had only been living Bali for three months at the time, arrived at the house of Ni Nengah Suliati in Jimbaran to pray for Suliati’s mother-in-law, who was ill at the time.
As she left the house, Rusigiani reportedly saw Canang Sari laying in the street. The daily offerings — which generally include rice, flowers, bananas and betel leaf — are placed in the streets of Bali as a daily thank the Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (the “All-In-One God”).
“God cannot enter this house because there is canang here,” Rusigiani said. “Canang is disgusting and dirty. My God is rich, He doesn’t need offerings.”
After receiving a report from Suliati, Bali police named her a suspect and charged her with Article 156 of the Criminal Code, which states that “a person who expresses feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt against one or more groups of the Indonesian population shall be punished with a maximum imprisonment of four years or a maximum fine of Rp 300 [$0.03].”
Neither side plans to file an appeal.
“The jail sentence is not for revenge or meant to torture [her], but it is a preventive, corrective, repressive and educative sentence to make the perpetrator realize what she has done and will not repeat it,” Anom said as he read out the ruling.
I Nyoman Kenak, head of Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia, said during the trial that Rusgiani’s statements could have insulted Hindu believers and encourage religious intolerance.
“The defendant’s deed has tainted Hinduism,” Kenak said.