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Activists want religious minister fired

Indonesian official failed to ensure freedom, say rights organizations

Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali (File photo) Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali (File photo)
  • Konradus Epa, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • January 25, 2011
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Leading rights organizations in Indonesia are demanding the sacking of Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, saying he has failed to ensure freedom of faith and pluralism in the predominantly Muslim nation.

“We’ve urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to dismiss the minister because he has no respect for pluralism,” said Hendardi, executive director of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, yesterday.

Setara reported 216 cases of religious freedom violations or persecution in 2010.
The human rights activist said the minister, also the chairman of Islam-dominated United Development Party, was mixing his own political agenda with his role as minister.

“A religious minister should be independent and his tasks should stand above all groups,” Hendardi said criticizing the minister for giving rewards to local governments that had imposed Islamic law in their respective areas.

According to the institute, most violations were committed against Christians, and were mostly attacks on and the closure of places of worship, and banning worshiping.

Another leading activist is also calling for Suryadharma Ali’s dismissal.

“I’ve also called for the minister to be dismissed as he seemed to voice support for radical groups when places of worship were attacked,” said Theophilus Bela, secretary general of the Indonesian Committee on Religion for Peace.

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