Religious leaders soften stance on LGBTs
Haeril Halim and Nurul Fitri Ramadhani
The Jakarta Post
Amid growing pressure from Muslim clerics to seek harsher punishment for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, an interfaith forum has agreed to take a more humane approach, defying the Indonesian Ulema Council's (MUI) calls for prosecution of the minority group.
The group, however, said that the religiously devout should only embrace members of the LGBT community in order to 'reform' them.
On Thursday, religious leaders representing Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism and Confucianism held a meeting at the MUI headquarters to issue a joint statement on the LGBT issue, in which they concluded that a peaceful approach was the only way to deal with members of the LGBT community before they could turn to faith to be cured.
Representatives from the MUI, the Indonesian Buddhists Association (Walubi), The Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) and the Confucian Supreme Council of Indonesia (Matakin), said in the joint statement that LGBT behavior was a violation of religious norms, the Constitution and the 1974 Marriage Law.
The Indonesian Hindu Religious Council (PHDI) and the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) did not attend Thursday's meeting, but the forum claimed that the two groups supported the agreement.
Uung Sendana of Matakin said religious leaders at the meeting had agreed not to bring religion into politics by calling on the government to prosecute members of the LGBT community, adding that no new law was necessary to respond to growing LGBT controversy in Indonesia.
'We don't want to allow more controversy to happen because we want to maintain harmony in this country, that's why we decided not to get involved in such politicking,' said Uung.
Despite endorsing the interfaith agreement, the MUI maintained its official stance demanding the prosecution of LGBT people, which the organization announced in an edict issued on Wednesday.
'Thursday's agreement only touches on the normative aspect, but it is also possible for the interfaith forum to press the House of Representatives and the Regional Representatives Council [DPD] into taking action,' said Yusnar Yusuf, one of the MUI clerics joining the forum.
Yusnar said that the MUI had agreed to sign the pact on Thursday only because Constitution and Marriage Law applied no punishment for deviant sexual behavior, adding that any action to campaign for LGBT rights in the country should be illegal.
Although Buddhism saw homosexuality as natural, this did not lend credence to same-sex relationships, Walubi said in the forum.
The Catholic Church meanwhile rejected 'deviant' behavior, but said it encouraged the faithful to embrace LGBT people to guide them back to 'normalcy'.
Members of the LGBT community have come under increasing pressure recently.
The government, which said it respected citizens' right to non-heterosexuality, has made efforts to stop foreign bodies from financing LGBT programs in Indonesia.
Thursday's forum also demanded the government crack down on any attempts to 'smuggle' in LGBT funding from overseas donors.
A number of government officials, citing cultural and religious norms, have made derogatory comments about LGBT people recently.
Health Ministry officials have become the latest party to join the anti-LGBT discourse sweeping the nation, saying that LGBT people suffered from a psychiatric problem caused by severe depression due to certain problems in their families or environment.
'The person should immediately go to the appropriate psychiatrist, not to advocacy groups, such as LGBT groups that connect them with people who have the same psychiatric problems,' Health Ministry secretary-general Untung Suseno Sutarjo said.
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