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Jakarta Post

Tanjung Balai administration breeding religious intolerance, say activists

  • Callistasia Anggun Wijaya
    Callistasia Anggun Wijaya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, October 31, 2016   /  07:43 pm
Tanjung Balai administration breeding religious intolerance, say activists The Tri Ratna temple is seen in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, on July 29. The temple was damaged after angry mobs attacked it and several other Buddhist houses of worship. (Antara/Anton)

Setara Institute vice chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos has criticized the Tanjung Balai administration in North Sumatra for reportedly ordering the management of the Tri Ratna Buddhist temple to remove a Buddha Amithaba statue on Oct. 27, in response to complaints from the neighborhood’s majority-Muslim residents.

"The country cannot bow to radical and intolerant groups. The country has to change its approach by prioritizing citizens’ rights based on the Constitution. The law shall be enforced," he told The Jakarta Post on Monday, adding that the precedent would impact on the state of tolerance in the country.

Bonar believed the Tanjung Balai administration had taken the wrong approach in maintaining stability and security by urging the minority group to succumb to the majority's will.

Veryanto Sitohang, founder and advocate of NGO the United North Sumatera Alliance, said the Buddhist congregation in the neighborhood had no other option aside from taking down the statue as the administration told the Buddhist community to remove it to avoid other possible attacks targeting temples.

According to Veryanto, following arson attacks on several Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai on July 27, regional leaders including the Tanjung Balai mayor, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and Interreligious Harmony Forum (FKUB) had met without the presence of Buddhist community representatives.

The meeting reportedly concluded with a consensus that the presence of the Buddha Amithaba statue had been a source of protest among local residents since 2010. Therefore, the mayor followed up by telling the temple’s management to remove the statue by October, Veryanto said. (dmr)

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