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Next Indonesian president urged to fight persecution

Attacks on minority worshippers worsening

Next Indonesian president urged to fight persecution

GKI Taman Yasmin's congregation hold a service in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta in 2013. They are not allowed to worship in their church in Bogor, West Java because of a dispute over a building permit. (Ryan Dagur)

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

June 10, 2014

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The next president must commit to upholding religious freedom in light of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s failure to do so and continuing attacks against worshippers, an official from the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) has said.

The comments were made at press conference in Jakarta on Monday, ahead of the presidential election set for July 9. They follow an attack in late May on Catholics during a prayer service. Jerry Sumampouw, PGI’s executive secretary of Diakonia desk, told that little was improving with regards to freedom of religion.

On May 29, a group of Catholics holding a prayer service in a private home in Sleman district, Yogyakarta, were attacked by dozens of men, injuring at least seven people. Three days later, a Protestant church was stoned by Islamic hardliners who claimed the church had no building permit.

“It’s difficult to build places of worship for religious minority groups,” Sumampouw said. “Worse, the state is steered by such intolerant groups and fails to put the constitution that guarantees religious freedom into practice.”

A 2006 decree states that any religious community not part of the local majority must have at least 90 congregation members and approval from at least 60 people from other religious communities before they build a place of worship.

“Case after case happens. In most incidences of violence against minorities, perpetrators get away completely or are given a light sentence,” Sumampouw said.

According to the Jakarta-based human rights monitoring group Setara Institute, violations of freedom of religion or belief have increased year on year, from a documented 200 incidents in 2009 to 264 in 2012.

Campaigning for the election by candidates Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo began last week. Emilia Renita Az, a Shia Muslim from the non-profit Organization of Ahlulbayt for Social Support and Education, said the next president “must get rid of the terms of minority and majority as all Indonesian citizens have equal rights”.

Rafendi Djamin, executive director of the Human Rights Working Group, said that the recent incidents in Yogyakarta “should be a warning for the government so that it can see the issue of religious freedom as an emergency”.

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