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Yogyakarta’s diversity in peril

Publication Date : 01-06-2014


Yogyakarta has long been known as a province of peace, but increasing intolerance directed at religious minorities in recent months is undermining the region’s long-held pride as a champion of diversity.

The latest incident took place on Thursday evening in Ngaglik, Sleman regency, as dozens of people dressed in gamis (long clothes usually worn by Arabs) attacked the house of Julius Felicianus, the director of Galang Press, while a number of Catholics were worshipping.

Five people were injured in the incident. The injured individuals include Julius; Kompas TV journalist Michael Aryawan; Julius’ neighbour, who reported the attack, and three worshippers.

National Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto said on Friday at least 15 people were involved in the attack.

“At first, eight people stormed the house. They left and then came back. There were 15 perpetrators in the second attack,” Agus said.

As of Friday, the police had arrested a suspect identified as KH, who lived nearby to Julius. Agus said the police had also identified other suspects.

Agus refused to confirm that the suspects were part of a religious hard-line group.

“They do not belong to a certain group. They acted as individuals. It is alleged that one person instigated the attack, but we still need more evidence,” he said.

He indicated the assailants were of a different faith to the victims. “The preliminary investigation found the victims and assailants follow different religions, but please don’t relate this attack to religion. This is an individual act,” he said.

According to Julius’ colleague Teguh Prastowo, the incident took place at around 8.45pm when Julius was at his office. Upon receiving information from his son, Julius went home to find the windows and door of his house broken, with the worshipers cornered inside.

The attackers then knocked Julius unconscious. Teguh said Julius suffered a serious injury to the back of his head and a broken shoulder bone. He is being treated at Panti Rapih Hospital.

Teguh denied rumors the violence was linked to religion.

“This is a personal problem between Julius and his neighbours.”

Julius, an activist of the Joint Secretariat for Yogyakarta’s Special Status, supported the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) following the attack by Kopassus members on Cebongan Penitentiary in Sleman that killed four detainees last year.

Julius is also an active supporter of Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Jusuf Kalla in the upcoming presidential election.

The Sleman incident adds to the number of religious intolerance cases in Yogyakarta, which is widely known for its highly educated population.

In January, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Yogyakarta branch called on the police to freeze or disband institutions or organisations whose members were adherents of Shia Islam.

On March 30, Islamic Jihad Front (FJI) followers vandalised the Kemah Injil Indonesia (GKII) church in Girisubo district, Gunungkidul regency, calling on the church congregation to no longer hold religious activity in the building.

The attack was followed by another incident on April 6 when FJI members sealed the church as it had allegedly not obtained a building permit.

On May 2, FJI followers allegedly assaulted the chairman of Gunungkidul Interfaith Forum, Aminuddin Aziz, following his statement quoted in online media about the FJI allegedly damaging and forcing the closure of the GKII

Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X recently received a pluralism award from the Indonesian Inter-Faith Network (JAII) for his success in maintaining pluralism in the province.

Meanwhile, dozens of local journalists staged a rally urging the police to deal with Michael’s attackers.

Siti Noor Laila of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) also warned of increasing intolerance in the region, given the recent rise of violence in the name of religion.

“The perpetrator in the Sleman attack was a childhood friend of the victim [Julius]. This may be an indicator that cases of intolerance in Yogyakarta are reaching worrying levels,” Siti said.


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