Children from the Bogor-based Christian Church in Indonesia congregation attend a prayer service in front of the presidential palace in Jakarta. This congregation had been banned from using their church because of alleged irregularities regarding a 2006 building application. (ucanews.com file photo by Ryan Dagur)
An interfaith coalition of Indonesian religious leaders have committed themselves to protecting children from religious violence and discrimination.
The group — representing all six government-recognized religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam and Protestantism as well as traditional beliefs — expressed their commitment during the formation of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Child Holistic Welfare, which took place April 8 in Jakarta.
"We agree to pay more serious attention to children particularly those becoming victims of religious-based violence. This must be holistic, which means it is not just about a physical need but also other needs such as education," Ilma Sovri Yanti, the Muslim coordinator of the forum, told ucanews.com on April 11.
"We realize that children are gifts from God. Therefore, we think that we do need to make the protection of children and the effort to fulfill their rights a priority," she said.
Yanti cited discrepancies in education for non-Muslim children in Aceh province, which implemented Shariah, or Islamic law, in 2001.
"In [Aceh Singkil] district, non-Muslim children don’t get proper religious study according to their own religions at the state-run schools. This is a discriminative practice which cannot be ignored as they are taught to hate the difference," she said.
She also recalled the 2012 violence in Sampang, where hundreds of Shia Muslims fled their homes after being attacked by a mob of Sunni Muslims. The religious violence affected children greatly, as they were forced to flee their homes and could not attend school, she said.
In order to put their commitment into practice, she said the forum will partner with other institutions and organizations who assist children.
Holy Family Father Hibertus Hartana, executive secretary of the bishops’ commission for family, said the forum will pay attention to issues faced by families.
He noted that last year the Catholic Church in Indonesia has begun drafting guidelines for children counseling programs, "but it’s not completed yet."
"If children are taught to be tolerant while they are young, they will be tolerant adults. This will help reduce cases of violence against children," he said.
Meanwhile, Dewi Kanti, a leader of traditional Sundanese faith Sunda Wiwitan, said that many children adhering to the traditional belief were even labeled pagans.
"They have become victims of discrimination since the beginning," she told ucanews.com.
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