Calls grow urging Indonesia to end religious minority ban

Barring Millah Abraham religious beliefs will inflame current atmosphere of intolerance, they say
Calls grow urging Indonesia to end religious minority ban

The remains of house owned by Dwi Adiyanto, a former adherent of the outlawed religious belief Gafatar, in Moton Panjang village in West Kalimantan province, Indonesia. It was torched by a mob on Jan. 19. (Photo courtesy of Dwi Adiyanto)

A leading Catholic Church official has joined calls for the repeal of a ministerial decree in Indonesia, which rights groups said would prevent a small religious minority from freely practicing their beliefs.

The decree jointly issued by the Religious Affairs and Home Affairs ministries, as well as the attorney general, on Feb. 29 places a ban on practicing Millah Abraham religious beliefs adhered to by former members of a religious organization called the Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar).

Authorities consider the beliefs heretical because they intermix the religious teachings of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The decree forbids believers from performing activities, disseminating or interpreting any teaching that deviates from the basic teaching of Islam.

Gafatar is an offshoot of Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah, which was declared a heretical organization by the attorney general in 2007 for also promoting Millah Abraham religious teachings.

Those who violate the ban could face a five-year prison sentence.

Father Agustinus Ulahayanan, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the decree would victimize the believers.

"The basic principle is that we respect all human beings. No one should be victimized," he said.

London-based rights group Amnesty International said the decree was in "utter disregard of Indonesia's international human rights obligations and protections in the constitution."   

"[The decree] is deeply flawed piece of legislation that unlawfully interferes with the right to freedom of religion and belief and must therefore be repealed immediately," the April 7 statement said.

"The decree would further marginalize this minority group and further risks inflaming the current atmosphere of intolerance and fear that has led to harassment, intimidation and attacks against members of the community," Amnesty said.

Gafatar was founded in January 2012 and had branches in 14 provinces. However, it was disbanded in August after they were not able to get a registration permit from the Home Affairs Ministry.

February's ban followed a series of attacks on believers following their failure to get a registration permit.

On Jan. 19, a mob burned down nine houses belonging to former Gafatar members who were forced to flee West Kalimantan's Mempawah district.

Dwi Adiyanto's whose home was among the one burnt, said the decree has added fuel to the fire and gives people extra incentive to attack them.

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"The decree is like a license [for people] to discriminate against us," he told ucanews.com.

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