UCA News

Indonesia

Protesters slam religious freedom award for president

Yudhoyono has done little to stem intolerance, they say

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Protesters slam religious freedom award for president
Protesters march towards the US embassy in Jakarta on Monday
Share this article :
Religious minority groups staged a peaceful rally on Monday in front of the US embassy in Jakarta to protest against the presentation of the World Statesman Award from a US-based foundation to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

About 30 representatives of Protestant churches as well as Ahmadiyah and Shia sects criticized the planned presentation of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation’s award, scheduled for May 30, because of the prevalence of religious intolerance in the country.

The award of the foundation, which was founded in 1965 by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, recognizes contributions to religious freedom and human rights and the promotion of peace, tolerance and ethnic conflict resolution.

“With so many difficulties faced by religious minority groups in Indonesia and the government’s minor role in respecting religious freedom, I’m very disappointed with the planned presentation of the award to the president,” Reverend Palti Panjaitan from the Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) Philadelphia in Bekasi district, West Java, said in a speech during the rally.

HKBP Philadelphia was denied permission to build a church in the district after submitting an application in 2007.

In December 2009, district authorities also banned the congregation from worshipping at the proposed site, but in July last year the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, saying they were eligible for a permit.

The permit has still to be issued.

“The president is an intolerant leader. Why does the United States think that he is a figure who fights for tolerance? This is weird,” Reverend Palti said.

Meanwhile, Haris Azhar from the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) told ucanews.com that the planned presentation of the award to the president is a mistake.

“How can a president who keeps silent when violence and killings of members of minority groups occurs be given such an award?” he asked.

Besides delivering speeches, the representatives also handed over letters of rejection.

In a letter from the Shia sect’s Organization of Ahlulbayt for Social Support of Education, Emilia Az J. Rakhmat asserted that the president did not deserve the award, considering the increasing religious and ethnic conflicts.

“The Shia community has been the target of religious violence for years, and the president has not taken any measures to suppress, let alone to prevent it,” she said.

The US embassy asked protesters to submit the letters of protest to Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that they could be forwarded to the embassy.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."