Yunarto Wijaya, left, speaks about religious and ethnic tensions at the start of the Indonesian bishops’ annual meeting on Nov. 6. With him is Bishop Martinus Dogma Situmorang of Padang in West Sumatra.
The head of Charta Politika, an Indonesian pollster, has called on Catholics to do more to help eliminate negative religious and ethnic sentiments used recently used by hardline groups for political purposes. Such sentiments usually surface ahead of both regional and presidential elections and the targets are poor and uneducated people, according to Yunarto Wijaya. “Catholics can stage social activities for poor and uneducated people. These activities serve as a way of making them realize that there are no religious or ethnic frontiers,” he told Indonesian bishops at the start of their 16-day annual meeting on Nov. 6 in Jakarta. He cited the Jakarta governor election as an example. The two-round election, held on Feb. 15 and April 19, saw Anies Rasyied Baswedan — a Muslim backed by radical groups — defeat incumbent Chinese Christian Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. The campaign saw these groups influence Muslim voters by using anti-Christian rhetoric and target the Christian directly through a blasphemy charge. “What we are worried about is that other regions might use the same tactics [for upcoming regional elections],” he said. Indonesia will hold regional elections in at least 17 provinces, 39 municipalities and 115 districts in June 2018 and the presidential election in May 2019.
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