‘Govt must act on intolerance or things will get worse’
The constant harassment of members of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Taman Yasmin is evidence of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s failure to protect minority groups in the country.
The harassment reached its peak on Sunday with locals preventing the congregation from performing Christmas mass.
Pluralism activists warned that the government’s inaction toward religious intolerance during the year could incite more violence in 2012.
“If the central government, especially the President, does not take action against the perpetrators, there will be more of the same in the future,” the deputy chairman of human rights watchdog Setara Institute, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
Muslim activist Muhammad Guntur Romli said the government should take firm action simply because community members were prone to intolerance.
“There’s always a tendency for intolerance within society and it is incumbent upon the government to protect its people from all forms of violence,” he told the Post.
Members of the GKI Yasmin congregation had to perform their Christmas mass at a private home on Sunday, after their place of worship was cordoned off and heavily guarded by the Bogor Police.
A handful of protesters gathered outside the sealed church, taunting members of the congregation and preventing them from entering Jl. H. Abdullah Bin Nuh where the church is located.
This is the second time members of GKI Yasmin’s congregation have failed to perform their Christmas service inside their church. Last year, the congregation was denied entry in spite of a Supreme Court ruling, which upheld the church’s legality.
The harassment of GKI Yasmin’s congregation is only one of many episodes of religious tension witnessed throughout 2011.
In February, three members of the Islamic Ahmadiyah sect were killed by locals in Cikeusik, Banten.
The Serang District Court sentenced 10 men and two minors to between three and six months’ imprisonment for their involvement in the killings of three Ahmadis during the brutal attack.
Also in February, three churches were destroyed by angry mobs who were angered by a judge’s verdict during a blasphemy trial.
In October, the local administration in Bekasi, West Java, issued an ordinance banning members of Ahmadiyah from publicly practicing their faith.
The ordinance prompted Muslim firebrands to harass Ahmadis living in the municipality.
Ahmad Suaedy, executive director of the Wahid Institute, said the central government should take action to protect minority groups, especially as some local governments had in fact been responsible for issuing discriminatory policies.
“In the case of GKI Yasmin, it is very clear that the Bogor mayor does not want to carry out the Supreme Court’s ruling. So, this case is no longer the responsibility of the local administration. It is the responsibility of the central government,” he said.
Guntur said the public could be forgiven for thinking that the central government was trying to hide something by allowing the oppression against religious minorities to proceed unchecked.
“The only reason was probably to divert public attention from corruption cases, like the cases of Nunun Nurbaeti and the former Democratic Party treasurer Nazaruddin,” he said.