Indonesia is currently grappling with a big wave of new COVID cases after the Idul Fitri holiday. The Southeast Asian country recorded an average of 30,000 new daily cases in the recent weeks.
According to Channel News Asia, the country recorded up to 38,000 new cases on Friday, rounding up a total of 2.4 million COVID cases and more than 64,000 deaths. Authorities believe that the spike in cases occurred due to the Idul Fitri in May, where people traveled to their hometowns and visited tourist attractions despite COVID restrictions. The same was the case last year, when the government saw a 60-70% increase of new COVID cases after the holiday.
Among those dead from the recent spike in COVID cases in Indonesia was Yunita Tambunan's father, a Christian family member in West Java, whose loved ones were reportedly extorted over the expired COVID patient's burial.
According to International Christian Concern, Christians in Indonesia are a religious minority and often struggle to obtain plots of land in cemeteries to lay their loved ones to rest.
Last week, the West Java Christian family was charged a large amount of "illegal tax" of about four million rupiah or $275 to bury their loved one who passed away from COVID, at the Cikadut cemetery in Bandung. Indonesia's current COVID regulations require the city administration to pay for all funerals and burials of COVID patients who expired from the disease.
The family attempted to lower the amount down to 2.8 million rupiah ($195) since four million rupiah was too much --it is equivalent to the lowest wage of a worker's salary for a month. The negotiations were unsuccessful and they had to pay full price.
The news of the Christian family paying a large amount of "illegal tax" to bury their dead circulated in Indonesian social media on July 11, with many citizens expressing anger and frustration over Tambunan's struggles, which a lot of them could relate to given the current COVID situation in the country.
Ema Sumarna who led the local COVID task force, decried the exorbitant fees, saying that it was an example of an "illegal tax" for non-Muslim families.
Asia News reported that after the administrators of the Cikadut cemetery asked the Christian family to pay a large amount of "illegal tax" to bury their dead, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil issued a statement of apology and vowed to report the case to the police, admitting that Muslim families were also victims of overpriced taxes.
A Bandung priest by the name of Fr. Iwan Rusbani decried the extortion done to the Christian family, saying, "Extortion is shameful, especially when you ask for an extra and illegal payment at a time of mourning. It is even worse because it is done on a confessional basis."
UCA News reported that Redy Krisnayana, the head of the funeral team, admitted to receiving the large amount of "illegal tax" but alleged that there was no coercion involved. He also said he fired several workers who demanded money from Muslims and that he was willing to return the money to Tambunan, issuing an apology by saying, "We apologize for this incident. It should not have happened."