Central Java has displayed a unique phenomenon in religious life as, although seeds of tolerance have been growing relatively quickly, signs of intolerance are also still high in a number of regencies and municipalities in the province, an NGO revealed on Friday.
Social and religious study institute, eLSA, located in Semarang, noted that between January and June, eight religious conflicts had occurred across the province, although that figure was far lower than the number of 26 similar conflicts throughout last year.
“Central Java is a comfort zone for the dissemination of tolerance. Yet, friction at a grass-roots level still occurs,” the director of eLSA, Tedi Kholiluddin, said in Semarang.
Among the eight religious conflicts were the forced dismissal of the Majelis Tafsir Alquran (MTA) congregation by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) youth activists in Kudus; people’s rejection of the establishment of a Buddhist temple in Salatiga and the halting of a Sapto Darmo workshop in Rembang and of a Ngesti Ksampurnan workshop in Sumowono, Semarang.
Other cases included Sedulur Sikep (Samin) members being forced to study Islam in Kudus and an attack by a mass organization against a community group in Surakarta.
In the courts, the leader of the Amanat Keagungan Ilahi in Klaten was convicted of religious defamation, while Ahmadiyah members were forced to sign an agreement to freeze their religious activities in Tawangmangu.
“It’s difficult to label any municipality or regency in Central Java as being tolerant or intolerant because, upon examination, each region has shown examples of both,” Tedi said.
In Kudus, for example, Samin members were forced to study Islam but, at the same time, the request by Samin members to leave the religious column on their ID cards blank was approved by the local administration.
Chairman of the Central Java Interfaith Forum (FKUB), Abu Hapsin, identified Surakarta and its environs as the most prone region to both internal and interfaith conflicts, mostly due to absolute and textual understandings of religion.
“Apart from the Ngruki Islamic boarding school, the MMI [Indonesian Mujahidin Council] and the FPI [Islam Defenders Front], there are 25 other religious groups that are strict in their understanding of Islam,” said Abu, referring to three of the country’s hard-line groups.
Conflicts, according to Abu, normally emerged when the administration adopted the interests of the majority and ignored those of the minority. “If only the majority is considered, what if the decision is not fair to the minority?” he asked.
Syaiful Uyun, an Ahmadiyah preacher from eastern Central Java, said his group was still being pressured by a number of parties, including the local community, police and subdistrict administration, to cease its religious activities.
The latest incidents, according to Syaiful, had occurred in Tawangmangu, Kendal and Temanggung. “Our chairman was asked to sign a statement saying we would not continue our activities,” he said.
Syaiful, however, insisted that their religious activities meant praying, not preaching.
Syaiful added that the Ahmadis had been lobbying local administrations in the respective regions to seek a solution. “We respect the joint ministerial decree, although it is very hard for us. So, we ask other parties to show respect by not suppressing us,” he said.
According to Syaiful, Central Java is home to some 15,000 members of Ahmadiyah.