The Jakarta Post
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has doubled down on his message for the nation to uphold democracy and tolerance ahead of Indonesia's 75th Independence Day, highlighting the importance for the people to eliminate moral superiority in the religiously and culturally diverse country.
In his annual state of the nation address on Friday, Jokowi asserted that the commitment to democratic values "cannot be compromised", adding that mutual cooperation among the people and reminding each other of "goodness and virtue" were necessary for Indonesia to advance.
“Indeed, democracy guarantees freedom, but it is only for freedom that respects other people’s rights. No one should be self-righteous and blame others. No one should think of themselves as the most religious,” the President said.
“No one should think of themselves as the most Pancasila-minded. All those feeling self-righteous and obtruding are morally wrong," the President said with regard to Indonesia’s state ideology of Pancasila.
He added that Indonesia was fortunate to have a majority of its people upholding solidarity and unity, with tolerance and care for one another, that made the country able to "get through these trying times" -- an apparent reference to the current crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The President had made no mention of such concerns during last year's state of the nation address, which had prompted criticism from activists who at the time accused Jokowi of overlooking discrimination and intolerance against religious minority groups in the country.
Cases of faith-based intolerance in Indonesia have persisted over the years, raising questions over religious freedom at home to thousands of ethnic groups and native faiths as well as diverse religions.
Churches in in many predominantly Muslim areas of Indonesia, for instance, have faced difficulties in obtaining building permits due to rejection from residents. In some, if not most cases, local authorities sided with the protesters.
In August last year, the Semarang administration in Central Java revoked the Semarang Baptist Church’s building permit following a protest from Muslim residents.
In March, an administration agency in Yogyakarta denied the Javanese Christian Churches (GKJ) in Gunungkidul regency a building permit after protests from residents, even though a previous court ruling supported the establishment.
Minority Muslim group Ahmadiyah has also long been persecuted for its beliefs, with the congregation seeing their mosques sealed and vandalized in some regions.
In April, authorities banned the renovation of the Al-Aqso Mosque belonging to an Ahmadiyah congregation in Tasikmalaya, West Java, with the local administration saying the ban was aimed at preventing public outrage.
As a way to promote tolerance, Jokowi approved in February a plan to build an underground tunnel connecting the Istiqlal Mosque -- Southeast Asia’s largest mosque in Central Jakarta – with the nearby Jakarta Cathedral as a symbol of strong bonds between the two religious communities.