Jakarta

Clerics take to street
for religious freedom

Around 200 clerics in Greater Jakarta took to the street on Monday to vent their criticism against the government’s negligence over the ongoing cases on religious intolerance.

The clerics in their cassocks along with the representatives of Shiites, Ahmadis and practitioners of indigenous faiths marched from the Bung Karno Stadium to the House of Representatives’ compound in Senayan, Central Jakarta, calling for the government to heed the 1945 Constitution that guarantees religious freedom for
the minorities.

Tanah Abang Precinct Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Suyudi Ario Seto said that police dispatched 375 personnel to safeguard the rally, with an additional 26 members from Nahdlatul Ulama’s youth wing, Banser.

They eventually met with People’s Consultative Assembly speaker Taufiq Kiemas and the deputy speakers for discussion.

“Religious freedom is not for negotiation and we condemn all kinds of violence and intimidation committed under the name of religion,” said Erwin Marbun, the rally coordinator of the ecclesiastic Forum Rohaniwan Se-Jabodetabek. “As of now, the state is omitting to counter the violence and we urge them to take strict measures.”

The forum asked the state to fulfill 10 requests, which include the need for regional administrations to protect the citizens despite their religious beliefs and allow them to worship freely.

“The state stands by various races and religions, not by the interest of a certain group,” Erwin added.

In a discussion with the clerics, Taufiq said that the assembly would thoroughly discuss the solutions to the escalating discrimination against religious minorities with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as well as leaders of other state high institutions, including the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, in a meeting slated for next month.

“I hope we will come up with a concrete and peaceful solution to the matter,” Taufiq said.

He added that the assembly would also engage local leaders to search for comprehensive solutions to religious conflict in their areas in order to uphold the country’s core ideology Pancasila, the Constitution, the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) and the Unity in Diversity (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika) principle.

“We must remember that it is impossible to uphold human rights here without the four pillars,” he added.

Separately, the assembly’s deputy speaker Melani Leimena Suharli concurred with Taufiq, emphasizing that a peaceful talk would help all groups to approach religious issues in Indonesia wisely.

“I believe that Indonesia upholds religious harmony. However, some groups apparently feel neglected [by the government]. Thus, we must sit together to accommodate the needs of all groups,” Melani said.

The long march and discussion were in response to the destruction and sealing off of several prayer houses in the city lately, and the violence of hard-line believers against them.

The report shows that the number of religious intolerance cases in 2012 stood at 274, up from 267 in 2011. In 2010, the record shows 184 cases and 121 cases in 2009.

Major cases of religious intolerance include the banning of church congregations from worshipping at the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Taman Yasmin in Bogor and the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) Filadelfia in Bekasi.

Recently, the Bekasi administration sealed Ahmadiyah’s Al-Misbah Mosque a few weeks after demolishing the unfinished church building of HKBP Taman Sari in Setu district due to objections from the predominantly Muslim neighborhood.

Meanwhile, spokesman to the forum, Binsar J. Pakpahan, said that the discussion with the Assembly leaders was the first small step to fight for religious freedom.

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