When it comes to global news coverage Indonesia is often left somewhat out of the spotlight, especially as the world focuses on the economic powerhouse of China. Yet Indonesia has the world's fourth largest population, spread over a country with more than 17,000 islands. Indonesia is also the world's most populous Muslim nation.
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Indonesia's history has been fairly tumultuous, it was ruled by the Dutch up until the second world war. Indonesia was prized for its spices of nutmeg and cloves. The Japanese occupied Indonesia during the second world war and when the Japanese surrendered, Indonesia declared independence.
Sukarno abolished democracy and ruled the country with the military. Suharto took over as leader in 1968 and led the country for the next 32 years. Indonesia's first presidential elections were held in 2004.
Indonesia is a poor country with government estimates of 18 per cent of the population living in poverty. The government defines poverty of earning just less than US$16 a month. If you use the common bench mark of $1 a day, 80 million of
Around 40 per cent of the Indonesian people still work in agricultural related industries. The main exports are palm oil, rice, coffee, spices, crude oil, natural gas, tin and gold. Indonesia has a fairly active tourism industry, with Bali attracting millions of foreign visitors every year from around the world.
You can't have a discussion about Indonesia without mentioning religion. Around 86 per cent of the population is Muslim and the rest of the country is made up of Protestant, Catholic, Hindu and Buddhist. The Indonesian government only recognizes these religions along with Confuciansim. The Indonesian constitution recognizes religious freedom, but the people can only practice these recognized religions. Also, it is forbidden for two people from different religions to get married in the country and atheism is not an accepted form of belief.
Indonesia's motto is "Unity in diversity" and the country is truly one of the most culturally diverse places in the world, with around 300 unique ethnic groups and over 700 different languages spoken. The official language is Bahasa Indonesia and is spoken and understood by most Indonesians.
Indonesia is prone to frequent earthquakes, floods and various other natural disasters. The 2004 tsunami which killed thousands of people, was caused by an underwater earthquake just off the west island of Sumatra. The super volcano which occurred 74,000 years ago and formed today's Lake Toba, led to six years of volcanic winter. Krakatoa in 1883 was the most violent volcanic eruption in the world's recorded history. The explosion was heard more than 3,000 kilometers away in Perth, Australia.
Indonesia also has diverse wildlife, including the world's largest lizard, which can grow up to three meters in length. The endangered orangutans live live in the jungles of Sumatra and Kalimantan, but their habitats are slowly being destroyed by illegal logging and palm oil plantations.
Indonesia is the world's fourth most populated country, but it perhaps doesn't get the attention it deserves. The country has a rich culture and some of the world's most diverse flora and fauna. Many people are poor, but they have a cheerful outlook on life and are very welcoming to foreign visitors.