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Activists condemn increasing persecution of minorities in Indonesia

Publication Date : 11-12-2012


As the world commemorated Human Rights Day yesterday, human rights activists and victims of abuse condemned the persecution of Indonesian minority groups that has been on the rise across the country.

Franz Magnis-Suseno of the Driyarkara School of Philosophy highlighted the fact that the nation was witnessing growing religious intolerance, a concern that has been frequently raised by several human rights watchdogs at home as well as by the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

"The religious situation in Indonesia is marked by a rising number of social conflicts between neighbourhoods and villages; conflicts on ethnic and, increasingly, on religious lines," he told a discussion over the weekend. During the discussion, he called on religious leaders, teachers and role models to promote values and attitudes that embraced respect for fellow human beings rather than exclusive religious teachings.

Violence against the country's religious minorities, such as Muslim Ahmadiyya and the Shia sects in Sampang, Madura, as well as Christian churches, remain a challenge for Indonesia.

A recent study by human rights watchdog the Setara Institute also highlighted similar concerns as it recorded around 200 discrimination cases against religious minorities nationwide up to October this year.

Similarly, NGO Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), also cited the lack of religious freedom in Indonesia as among the issues that marred the country's human rights record; with others including the lack of action on past human rights violations, as well as public policies that might breach human rights, such as the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia's Economic Development.

In its statement, Kontras highlighted ongoing persecution of the congregation of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin in Bogor, West Java, the Ahmadiyya followers in West Nusa Tenggara, who have been forced from their homes in Ketapang, West Lombok for seven years, as well as against the Shia community in Sampang.

"Ignorance by the government has obviously encouraged increasing violence against minority groups in other areas too, all across the country, which could potentially be misused by political interests approaching the 2014 legislative and presidential elections," Kontras said.

Speaking to The Jakarta Post, Sampang Shiite leader Iklil Al Milal said that he and 176 Shiites would continue to ask the government to let them return to their village. They have been living in shelters for four months after their homes were attacked in August.

The future of those Shiite refugees remains uncertain although the local administration continues to supply them with food and water, after cutting those supplies for two weeks due to a "limited budget".

"We are grateful the government is finally listening to our plea. We don't need to worry about food and water for the time being. But, how long can we live like this?" Al Milal asked. "Let us return to our village so that we can work to support ourselves."

In addition to growing religious persecution, the government's commitment to upholding and protecting human rights is also undermined by its apparent reluctance to take action in human rights violations that occurred in earlier years, including the 1965 purge, the 1998 riots and the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib in 2004.

Although the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navanethem Pillay has demanded a new probe into the killing of Munir, as well as a review of the trial of former National Intelligence Agency deputy chairman Muchdi Purwoprandjono, nothing has been done thus far.


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