Despite a number of recent incidents stemming from interfaith issues in the country, political parties still do not consider it a priority, a discussion heard Wednesday.
Dodi Ambardi, executive director of the Indonesian Survey Institute, said political parties had to deal with and determine their position against a great number of issues such as poverty, foreign affairs and trade.
“The issue on religious tolerance is only one of hundreds of issues occupying the parties. It must compete with other issues they consider to be ‘sexier’,” he said during a discussion held by the Journalists’ Association for Diversity (Sejuk).
“So, there’s only a little probability that they will pay attention to this problem,” he added.
Dodi said the only exception to this would be in lead up to the general elections — a time when political parties might see benefit in addressing religious intolerance.
“The cycle of the election will determine whether this issue of tolerance will gain much currency.”
Dodi said the recent violent attacks against HKPB church leaders in Bekasi indicated that on an individual level, political figures seemed to uphold tolerance.
“But, their individual reactions toward the incident were spontaneous and unofficial. It means their parties do not think there’s religious intolerance and a problem with the relationship between religious groups at this moment,” he added.
Legislator Jafar Hafsah, the Democratic Party chairman at the House of Representatives, voiced a different view. He said religious intolerance had become a priority for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s party because it promotes and practices tolerance, which he said was the party’s creed.
He added that although the Democratic Party did not always raise the religious tolerance issue, it did not reduce its significance.
“In the future, our country has to stick with the unity in diversity philosophy... No group may force their will against other groups,” he said.
According to Jafar, the police should take action against those violating the law.
Golkar Party central board member Priyo Budi Santoso said pluralism, including religious tolerance, was one of the party’s platforms.
“The diversity and difference are the core strength of our country and that’s why we should appreciate them,” he said.
Priyo added the issue deserved a priority at his party, just like other issues like poverty and terrorism.
However, he said, that a single statement responding to religious intolerance made by his party was not necessary. “Any members expressing their opinions towards the issue of tolerance does it in their capacity as party members.”
Nasir Jamil from the Prosperous Justice Party said the issue of tolerance was not a priority for his party because it was not related to its “strategic role”.
“Our strategic role is to regulate and monitor the government to strengthen religious tolerance,” he said. (lnd)