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Jakarta Post

Protecting holy sites, building peace and tolerance

  • Kwan Saleephol

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, July 14, 2015   /  10:07 am
Protecting holy sites, building peace and tolerance Basic rights: Ahmadis leave the Al-Misbah Mosque after a Friday mass prayer despite a ban by the Bekasi city administration intended to prevent them from performing the Ahmadiyah religious practices.(JP/Sita Dewi)" border="0" height="345" width="512">Basic rights: Ahmadis leave the Al-Misbah Mosque after a Friday mass prayer despite a ban by the Bekasi city administration intended to prevent them from performing the Ahmadiyah religious practices.(JP/Sita Dewi)

Indonesia is home to followers of most major religions, including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as hundreds of indigenous beliefs.

Perhaps inevitably, the country has seen acts of religious intolerance over the last few years. Holy sites and places of worship have been among the main targets of such acts.

Anggita Paramesti, a program officer at NGO Search for Common Ground (SFCG) Indonesia, said that holy sites were often targeted in conflicts because of their symbolic importance.

“The destruction of holy sites causes great pain to believers. As such, it is hugely detrimental to processes of peace-building and reconciliation,” Anggita said.

Information from the Wahid Institute in 2014 shows that most religious-based violence in Indonesia involves desecration, destruction, blockage and denial of construction of holy sites.

Similarly, a research on holy sites in Indonesia conducted by SFCG in 2015 shows that 6 percent of the respondents think that attacks on houses of worship of other religions are justified. In addition, 7 percent would be willing to join such attacks.

Opposition is fiercer to other sects of the same religion than to other religions. “For example, [Muslims] are more tolerant of churches than of Ahmadiyah mosques,” the program officer commented.

“Empowering Inter-faith Collaboration to Respect and Protect Holy Sites in Indonesia” is a two-year project initiated in August 2014 seeking to promote respect for and protection of holy sites around the country.

“Indonesia has a lot of success stories of acceptance and open-mindedness, but we have to understand that we still have problems with tolerance,” Anggita said.

Harmony: The Bukit Dua Protestant Church stands beside the Buddha Guna Buddhist Temple, at the Puja Mandala houses of worship complex in Nusa Dua, Bali. The complex also houses the Ibnu Batutah Grand Mosque, the Jagatnatha Hindu temple and the Mary Mother of All Nations Catholic Church.(Search for Common Ground – Holy Sites Research (2015)Harmony: The Bukit Dua Protestant Church stands beside the Buddha Guna Buddhist Temple, at the Puja Mandala houses of worship complex in Nusa Dua, Bali. The complex also houses the Ibnu Batutah Grand Mosque, the Jagatnatha Hindu temple and the Mary Mother of All Nations Catholic Church.(Search for Common Ground – Holy Sites Research,2015)

The project, which is underway in Indonesia and Nigeria, is based on the Universal Code of Conduct on Holy Sites (UCCHS). Pilot projects were previously implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The UCCHS aims to find ways to protect holy sites worldwide. It was completed in January 2011 by a joint partnership of four organizations, namely the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, One World in Dialogue (EVID), Religions for Peace (RfP) and SFCG.

“The Universal Code’s main purpose is to serve as a tool for initiating cooperation and reconciliation between ethnic and religious communities,” the EVID stated in a press release.

Anggita explained that the project would hold quarterly workshops and advocacy training for young members of religious organizations such as the Ahmadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Hindu and Buddhist assemblies.

“The aim is to establish a joint advocacy program involving youth from various religious-based organizations, such as the youth of Yasmin Church in Bogor, which has been denied the right of worship for several years,” the program officer said, “so they can play a key role in finding peaceful solutions to conflicts.”

Anggita pointed out that Bogor and West Java were ranked among the most religiously intolerant regions in Indonesia and that many violations of holy sites happened in the Greater Jakarta area.

The reason for this, she said, might be that the capital attracts people from across the archipelago, with no common values to unite communities.

Laurens Kwoo, a member of the research and development department at the Buddhist Theravada Youth Organization, who has participated in SFCG workshops along with other religion representatives, said that young people were the most easily influenced.

“If young people are nurtured to respect religious differences, they will not discriminate against other people based on religion, belief, skin color or race,” he said.

Kwoo believes that young people are the leaders of tomorrow. “The aim [of the project] is not only about protecting the holy sites itself, but also about how to develop tolerance, sympathy and respect for other people’s faiths.”

Ancestry ritual: Chinese ancestral graves in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, are other examples of holy sites. The Chinese are known for honoring their ancestors.(Search for Common Ground – Holy Sites Research,2015)Ancestry ritual: Chinese ancestral graves in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, are other examples of holy sites. The Chinese are known for honoring their ancestors.(Search for Common Ground – Holy Sites Research,2015)

Pilgrimage: A place of pilgrimage, such as the grave of Raden Ayu Siti Khotijah in Pemecutan, Bali, is also considered a holy site.(Search for Common Ground – Holy Sites Research, 2015)Pilgrimage: A place of pilgrimage, such as the grave of Raden Ayu Siti Khotijah in Pemecutan, Bali, is also considered a holy site.(Search for Common Ground – Holy Sites Research, 2015)

Perseverance: Members of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin congregation pray outside their sealed church in Bogor. Agitators have protested the church’s presence in the neighborhood.(Courtesy of GKI Yasmin)

Basic rights: Ahmadis leave the Al-Misbah Mosque after a Friday mass prayer despite a ban by the Bekasi city administration intended to prevent them from performing the Ahmadiyah religious practices.(JP/Sita Dewi)

Indonesia is home to followers of most major religions, including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as hundreds of indigenous beliefs.

Perhaps inevitably, the country has seen acts of religious intolerance over the last few years. Holy sites and places of worship have been among the main targets of such acts.

Anggita Paramesti, a program officer at NGO Search for Common Ground (SFCG) Indonesia, said that holy sites were often targeted in conflicts because of their symbolic importance.

'€œThe destruction of holy sites causes great pain to believers. As such, it is hugely detrimental to processes of peace-building and reconciliation,'€ Anggita said.

Information from the Wahid Institute in 2014 shows that most religious-based violence in Indonesia involves desecration, destruction, blockage and denial of construction of holy sites.

Similarly, a research on holy sites in Indonesia conducted by SFCG in 2015 shows that 6 percent of the respondents think that attacks on houses of worship of other religions are justified. In addition, 7 percent would be willing to join such attacks.

Opposition is fiercer to other sects of the same religion than to other religions. '€œFor example, [Muslims] are more tolerant of churches than of Ahmadiyah mosques,'€ the program officer commented.

'€œEmpowering Inter-faith Collaboration to Respect and Protect Holy Sites in Indonesia'€ is a two-year project initiated in August 2014 seeking to promote respect for and protection of holy sites around the country.

'€œIndonesia has a lot of success stories of acceptance and open-mindedness, but we have to understand that we still have problems with tolerance,'€ Anggita said.

Harmony: The Bukit Dua Protestant Church stands beside the Buddha Guna Buddhist Temple, at the Puja Mandala houses of worship complex in Nusa Dua, Bali. The complex also houses the Ibnu Batutah Grand Mosque, the Jagatnatha Hindu temple and the Mary Mother of All Nations Catholic Church.(Search for Common Ground '€“ Holy Sites Research (2015)Harmony: The Bukit Dua Protestant Church stands beside the Buddha Guna Buddhist Temple, at the Puja Mandala houses of worship complex in Nusa Dua, Bali. The complex also houses the Ibnu Batutah Grand Mosque, the Jagatnatha Hindu temple and the Mary Mother of All Nations Catholic Church.(Search for Common Ground '€“ Holy Sites Research,2015)

The project, which is underway in Indonesia and Nigeria, is based on the Universal Code of Conduct on Holy Sites (UCCHS). Pilot projects were previously implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The UCCHS aims to find ways to protect holy sites worldwide. It was completed in January 2011 by a joint partnership of four organizations, namely the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, One World in Dialogue (EVID), Religions for Peace (RfP) and SFCG.

'€œThe Universal Code'€™s main purpose is to serve as a tool for initiating cooperation and reconciliation between ethnic and religious communities,'€ the EVID stated in a press release.

Anggita explained that the project would hold quarterly workshops and advocacy training for young members of religious organizations such as the Ahmadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Hindu and Buddhist assemblies.

'€œThe aim is to establish a joint advocacy program involving youth from various religious-based organizations, such as the youth of Yasmin Church in Bogor, which has been denied the right of worship for several years,'€ the program officer said, '€œso they can play a key role in finding peaceful solutions to conflicts.'€

Anggita pointed out that Bogor and West Java were ranked among the most religiously intolerant regions in Indonesia and that many violations of holy sites happened in the Greater Jakarta area.

The reason for this, she said, might be that the capital attracts people from across the archipelago, with no common values to unite communities.

Laurens Kwoo, a member of the research and development department at the Buddhist Theravada Youth Organization, who has participated in SFCG workshops along with other religion representatives, said that young people were the most easily influenced.

'€œIf young people are nurtured to respect religious differences, they will not discriminate against other people based on religion, belief, skin color or race,'€ he said.

Kwoo believes that young people are the leaders of tomorrow. '€œThe aim [of the project] is not only about protecting the holy sites itself, but also about how to develop tolerance, sympathy and respect for other people'€™s faiths.'€

Ancestry ritual: Chinese ancestral graves in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, are other examples of holy sites. The Chinese are known for honoring their ancestors.(Search for Common Ground '€“ Holy Sites Research,2015)Ancestry ritual: Chinese ancestral graves in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, are other examples of holy sites. The Chinese are known for honoring their ancestors.(Search for Common Ground '€“ Holy Sites Research,2015)

Pilgrimage: A place of pilgrimage, such as the grave of Raden Ayu Siti Khotijah in Pemecutan, Bali, is also considered a holy site.(Search for Common Ground '€“ Holy Sites Research, 2015)Pilgrimage: A place of pilgrimage, such as the grave of Raden Ayu Siti Khotijah in Pemecutan, Bali, is also considered a holy site.(Search for Common Ground '€“ Holy Sites Research, 2015)

Perseverance: Members of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin congregation pray outside their sealed church in Bogor. Agitators have protested the church'€™s presence in the neighborhood.(Courtesy of GKI Yasmin)Perseverance: Members of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin congregation pray outside their sealed church in Bogor. Agitators have protested the church'€™s presence in the neighborhood.(Courtesy of GKI Yasmin)

_______________________

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.

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