The Jakarta Post
The Purwakarta regional administration in West Java has issued a circular that guarantees the freedom of local residents to express their religious beliefs.
The policy has been widely applauded by activists, as it provides rare and concrete guidance for the promotion of tolerance in the province, which has long been a hotbed for various religiously motivated conflicts.
The assurance is formally stated in Purwakarta Regent Circular No. 450/2621/Kesra on the guarantee of the right to worship according to one's faith.
'Purwakarta [residents] should have no anxiety with regard to their faith or [worship] practices,' Regent Dedi Mulyadi told The Jakarta Post over the phone on Friday.
He said the issuance of the circular, which he signed on Nov. 10, was an effort to enforce the Constitution and the state's ideology of Pancasila.
Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution, he said, guaranteed every citizen the right to embrace a religion, and to worship according to his or her respective faith, as long as the faith practices did not disturb public order.
Dedi, a politician from Golkar, the country's second-largest political party, acknowledged that he had issued the circular to curb the emergence of anti-Shia activity in the regency.
'Sect A or sect B may exist, but they must obey the state's authority,' he said. 'That's why the circular has been issued and distributed down to the neighborhood unit level to create a like-minded understanding [of the principle]'
According to the Wahid Institute's annual report last year, West Java ranked first in terms of intolerance and the violation of religious freedom.
Long-standing conflicts regarding the establishment of the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor and the Filadelfia church in Bekasi, as well as violence against Ahmadiyah followers in several places in the province, were among the unresolved problems that led to West Java's high ranking in terms of religious intolerance.
Purwakarta, located some 90 kilometers southeast of Jakarta, has also seen the emergence of religious tensions after an organization calling itself the Anti Shia National Alliance (Annas) announced its plan to declare an anti-Shia movement at the Indonesian Education University (UPI) campus in Purwakarta this weekend.
Dedi said he strongly opposed the campaign.
'I don't condone their event. I disagree with them,' said Dedi, who recently delivered a speech in front of young leaders from around the world at a forum at the UN headquarters in New York.
Contacted separately, Purwakarta Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Truno Yudo Wisno confirmed that the police had issued a permit for Annas' event, arguing that the movement was regarded as a 'moral movement' without any anarchic tendencies.
'The event is aimed at protecting the religious beliefs that are followed by Annas,' Truno said, adding that he also supported the regent's newly issued circular.
Inter-Religion Network coordinator Wawan Gunawan, meanwhile, applauded Dedi's efforts to provide a legal basis for promoting tolerance in his regency.
'The government and law enforcers would not need such a circular if they implemented the Constitution properly,' he said.
Meanwhile in North Sulawesi, the local police have denied circulating rumors that the Christian community in Bitung municipality had recently demolished a mosque that was still under construction in the Aer Ujang complex, Girian Permai subdistrict.
'Based on the results of the recent Forkopimda [Regional Leadership Communication Forum] meeting involving North Sulawesi provincial and Bitung municipal officials, no [construction] activity is permitted at the site until the license is issued,' North Sulawesi Police spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Wilson Damanik said on Friday.
Wilson said there had been no permanent building on the disputed site, only a structure made of plywood with zinc roofing. He added that it was the mosque committee itself which tore down the structure following demands from the local community.
'I call for restraint from the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Put your trust in the police to help end the dispute,' Wilson said.
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