The Jakarta Post
An alliance of 34 NGOs and a group of individuals called on the government and security authorities to provide protection for a lecturer of Ar Raniry State Islamic University in Banda Aceh who has been intimidated and under threat for inviting her students to a church as part of her efforts to build peace in the country.
According to them, what Rosnida Sari is fighting for is quite relevant within the pluralist Indonesian society and therefore the state must be present in giving protection to its citizens wanting to build solidarity in pluralism.
The NGOs include the Indonesian Coalition for Women, Empowerment and Development of Society Foundation in South Sulawesi, Migrant Care, Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), Woman Education Watch and Institute of Global Justice.
Dian Kartika, spokesperson for the NGO alliance, said President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo had to guarantee the protection of the lecturer to uphold academic freedom and allow her to promote tolerance among her students.
'The National Police chief and the Religious Affairs minister should take immediate and strong coordinating efforts to calm down the tension in Banda Aceh, provide real protection for Rosnida and her family and ensure all sides in the province that what she is doing does not violate the law but is aimed at promoting tolerance among students,' he told The Jakarta Post by telephone on Thursday.
Rosnida, a Muslim lecturer, received strong intimidation from Acehnese clerics and her fellow lecturers in the university and has been bullied through social media after she invited a number of her students to visit and hold a dialogue in a Catholic church in Banda Aceh, last week.
Following mounting protests from numerous sides, Rosnida has been suspended and asked to stop teaching for the time being.
Rosnida said she and her family have been intimidated because she has been accused of 'christianizing' her students and she received the university's decision to suspend her for time being.
She admitted that she invited her students to voluntarily make a visit to the Catholic church so that her students could understand the religion and hold a dialogue with the church minister.
'The church visit conducted voluntarily is part of my creative teaching method to have Muslim students understand other faiths and build mutual understanding and religious tolerance.
'Besides giving the students a better understanding of the gender relations in other religions, I want my students to have no more unsafe feelings and prejudice toward students from other faiths. The creative teaching method is aimed at building mutual understanding among students, phasing out the prejudice, which has been formed by print and electronic media,' she said, adding that she was ready to help the media with building solidarity among religious communities in the country.
Dian said further that the case was the tip of an iceberg; tolerance is dying in many religious communities.
She added that the case had led to a serious threat to academic freedom and had also shown that the state did not seem to be eager to offer protection to those supporting tolerance and solidarity.
'The government should act and lead in the front row to fight against the growing intolerance among religious communities by solving the GKI Yasmin case in Bogor, West Java, and end the prolonged discrimination against Ahmadiyah sect followers in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara,' she said. (++++)