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Activists hit out over minister’s awards

Recipients were Indonesian officials who made provision for Islamic by-laws

Activists hit out over minister’s awards
Father Antonius Benny Susetyo
Indonesian activists and Church leaders have criticized a government minister for giving awards to officials who explicitly made provision in regional and local by-laws for Islamic education.

Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali presented the awards to six governors as well as 10 district heads and mayors at a Jan. 3 ceremony in his Jakarta office.

“The awards are dangerous for the nation because the by-laws contain religious values which are contrary to the 1945 Constitution,” Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference’s Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, told yesterday.

The awards presentation amounted to a “hidden campaign,” Father Susetyo warned.

“Regional by-laws must not be mixed with religion,” he said, noting that regulations referring to Islamic education contradict Indonesia’s Pancasila (five principles) national ideology and the nation’s 1945 Constitution.

Pancasila stresses belief in one God, a just and civilized society, a united Indonesia, democracy guided by consensus and social justice for all.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy head of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, added that the awards were not based on clear criteria.

He suggested that the state should not interfere with religions.

“The government does things that it thinks are right but that turn out to be discriminatory,” he lamented.

Andy Yentriyani from the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), agreed that government officials should not favor one religion.

“He is not the minister for Islam but Indonesia,” she insisted.

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