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Indonesian police vow to halt religious intolerance

As violence against minorities continues, officials promise better enforcement

Farouk Arnaz for the Jakarta Globe

Farouk Arnaz for the Jakarta Globe

Updated: December 07, 2014 07:44 PM GMT
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Indonesian police vow to halt religious intolerance

Sunni Muslims torch a home in a wave of anti-Shia violence in Sampang, East Java, on August 26, 2012 (AFP photo)

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Police spokesman Inspector General Ronny F Sompie told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday that police would take a harder line against religious intolerance, an issue human rights groups say was neglected by the administration of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Ronny said National Police chief General Sutarman spoke at the police academy in Semarang, Central Java, where he told officers on Friday: “There can be no more evictions, violence and coercion towards any religious beliefs as stipulated in the 1945 constitution.”

Police would not tolerate any groups who used religion as an excuse to act as vigilantes or attack houses of worship, Ronny said.

“The protection for minority groups, be it religious groups, tribes or races must be conducted optimally,” he said.

Religious intolerance is common in Sunni Muslim-majority Indonesia and often boils over into threats and violent attacks against religious minority groups, or imprisonment of leaders on blasphemy charges.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report in 2013 which documented an increasing number of attacks by Islamic militant groups on houses of worship and members of minority groups. The attacks were carried out most commonly against Ahmadis, Christians and Shia Muslims, the report said.

Yudhoyono has been heavily criticized for allowing attacks to rise over his two-term presidency between 2004 and 2014.

Writing in the Jakarta Globe in August this year, Phelim Kine, the deputy director at HRW’s Asia division, said: “Yudhoyno’s failure to protect religious freedom goes far beyond his acceptance of the depredations of Islamist thugs.

“On multiple occasions in recent years,” Kine added, “police and government officials have been passively or actively complicit in incidents of harassment, intimidation or violence against religious minorities.”

More recently, Amnesty International condemned the criminalization of beliefs in Indonesia in the past decade.

Rupert Abbott, Amnesty’s research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, told a Jakarta audience on November 21 that the organization supported President Joko Widodo’s stated commitment to human rights, but that the new government had its work cut out for it in a climate of “intensifying intolerance”.

Original Story: Police Pledge Hard Line Against Religious Intolerance

Source: Jakarta Globe 

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