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Thousands sign petition to protect religious freedom in Indonesia

The nation must learn the value of diversity and accept it wisely, says one of the initiators of the online petition

Thousands sign petition to protect religious freedom in Indonesia

Indonesia's minority Ahmadi Muslim community during prayers at the al-Hidayah mosque in Jakarta in January 2015. (Photo: AFP)

Catholics were among thousands who signed an online petition calling on the Indonesian government to protect religious freedom after last week’s attack on an Ahmadi mosque in West Kalimantan province.

Initiated by a group of concerned people, among them Jesuit Father Franciscus Xaverius Mudji Sutrisno, a professor at the Jakarta-based Driyarkara School of Philosophy, and Catholic actress and television host Olga Lydia, the petition has so far been signed by more than 6,100 people since it was posted on Change.org on Sept. 5.

“One of the most basic rights is freedom of religion and belief and freedom of worship. The state must protect all religious activities as long as they do not harm others,” Lydia told UCA News on Sept. 10.

Indonesia as a nation must learn the value of diversity and accept it wisely, she said.

Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian researcher for Human Rights Watch who signed the petition, said the government must revoke the 2008 joint ministerial decree banning the Ahmadiya community from disseminating their beliefs and teachings.

Ahmadi Muslims are often targeted by other Muslims in Indonesia as they are considered blasphemous for believing that Muhammad is not the last prophet.

Police have arrested 21 suspects so far. Among them, three people were said to be masterminds while the rest had carried out the attack

“Sooner or later, the government must also revoke the article on blasphemy if they do not want it to be politicized,” Harsono said.

Meanwhile, police have named 22 people, including a teenager, as suspects behind the attack on the Miftahul Huda Mosque and the burning of a nearby building belonging to the sect in Sintang district on Sept. 3.

Police have arrested 21 suspects so far. Among them, three people were said to be masterminds while the rest had carried out the attack.

The petition claims that local authorities sealed the mosque on Aug. 14 prior to the attack and later issued a decree banning Ahmadi activities.

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Police personnel in riot gear and holding shields were present at the time of the incident but remained unmoved.

“We demand a legal process for all those involved in the incident, a revocation of the local authorities’ decree and dismissal of the district police head,” the petitioners said.

They also urged President Joko Widodo “to properly perform his constitutional duty, which is to protect freedom of religion and belief and freedom of worship."

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