Religious leaders ask for calm in Rohingya issue
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Indonesian religious leaders called for calm over the Rohingya issue. News reports have highlighted the religious nature of the conflict between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. Misunderstandings and tensions between adherents of the two groups are growing in Indonesia.
Buddhist priest Sumedho said that several Buddhist temples nationwide have been under threat of forced closure.
“Hate against Buddhists is circulating, especially in social media. This isn’t right because some Rohingya are also Buddhists. We must do something before things get worse,” Sumedho said in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Sumedho and several other priests met with Nahdatul Ulama (NU) chairman Said Aqil Siradj to discuss the issue at the headquarters of the largest Islamic organization of the country in Central Jakarta on Wednesday, asking the NU help clarify the situation.
NU chairman Said agreed that most Indonesians have misunderstood the communal conflict in Myanmar as a religious-based conflict and are carried by religious sentiments.
“We will look further at the alleged spread of hate speech against Buddhists. For now I ask all Muslims, as well as other Indonesians, to calm down. Don’t let yourself be provoked by assumptions against other faiths,” he said.
Said Aqil underlined that it is unnecessary for Muslims to go to the Myanmar to show their support for Rohingya. “Let the governments and human rights agencies do the job. Just calm down,” he said.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that the conflict appears to involve two different religious groups, but Indonesia wants to focus on human rights aspects.
“I once again say that we do care about what’s going on there and we condemn any kind of violations and discrimination. Furthermore, we want to be part of the solution by providing shelter for Rohingya refugees for example,” he said.
Calls are mounting for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to emphasize Indonesia’s commitment to uphold and promote human rights and to stop the violence against the Rohingya.
“The President must immediately announce our support for the Rohingya to assure the public, and global community, that we care about what has been going on in Myanmar,” House of Representatives deputy speaker Pramono Anung said on Wednesday.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker added that the Indonesian government should express its support for the Rohingya through a strong diplomacy.
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