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Indonesia mourns death of 'peace-building' cleric

Salahuddin Wahid, 77, will be remembered as a staunch supporter of secular ideology, friends and colleagues say

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Indonesia mourns death of 'peace-building' cleric

Prominent Muslim cleric Solahuddin Wahid has died at the age of 72. (Photo courtesy of Tebuireng Islamic School)

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Indonesia is mourning the death of Salahuddin Wahid, a prominent Muslim cleric, lawmaker and democracy fighter

Wahid, known as Gus Solah, died in Harapan Kita Heart Hospital in Jakarta on Feb. 2 while undergoing surgery. He was 77.

Born in Jombang, East Java, on Sept 11, 1942, he was the younger brother of former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid.

As well as serving in Indonesia’s parliament, he assumed various leadership roles, including heading Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization with 80 million members (1999-2004), the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (2001-03) and serving as deputy chairman of the National Commission of Human Rights (2002-07). 

Suhairi Misrawi, a young NU leader, said Wahid worked hard to build religious tolerance and secularism in Indonesia.

“[His] death is a big loss because he was a leader who sought to build bridges between Islam, the government and other religions,” he told UCA News.

Catholic and Protestant leaders hailed his efforts for the country and interfaith relations.

Rev. Gomar Gultom, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said Indonesia has lost a national leader and a fighter for humanity who was not only a leader of Muslims but of all.

“He crossed the divides to help people of other ethnic groups and religions,” Gultom said. 

He showed himself to be a cleric who had a passion for human rights. “Although he was involved in politics, he didn’t lose his identity as a cleric,” he said.

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, a member of a presidential unit promoting communal tolerance, said Wahid showed a great deal of compassion toward Christians.

“We lost a great figure who had a strong commitment to religious values, a leader who constantly struggled for democracy and human rights in Indonesia," Father Susetyo told UCA News.

Father Susetyo said Wahid played an active part in trying to build peace in restive Papua by working with Papuan bishops. He also played a role in settling deadly religious conflicts such as in Ambon, Maluku province, in 1999 and in Poso, Central Sulawesi.

"He will be remembered for his contribution and constant calls to maintain diversity and to prioritize reconciliation in any situation," the priest said.

Wahid was to be buried on Feb. 3 at the Tebu Ireng Islamic School in Jombang, East Java, next to his brother.

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