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Freedom Guard to protect minority groups from terror
Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesia’s founding fathers declared that this country would embrace various cultures, ethnic groups, religions and beliefs, however such idealism is fast disappearing and freedom to enjoy this diversity has become endangered, with minority groups often suffering from violence and terror.
The government security forces, however, are often indifferent to attacks on minorities — ostensibly because the officers fear inflaming the situation further.
In a move made so that all Indonesians can enjoy the same rights and privileges as full citizens of the nation, a group committed to non-violence declared the establishment of the Garda Kemerdekaan (Freedom Guard) here on Friday.
“We set up the organization with the main objective of rebuffing all violence, protecting people from any type of brutality and standing alongside any groups being abused or terrorized simply because of their differences,” said guard leader and journalist Ahmad Taufik.
He said the guard’s establishment was partly done to demonstrate the public concern over the increased number of attacks by Muslim extremists on minority groups and Islamic scholars — largely because the extremists have decided that such people were heretical or deviant.
Muslim hard-liners recently vandalized and terrorized Ahmadiyah, an Islamic sect that recognizes another prophet after Muhammad. Mainstream Muslims worldwide believe Muhammad was the final prophet.
The frequent attacks have forced Ahmadiyah members to flee their homes and villages. However, very little if any, action has been taken by the police or other law enforcement personnel against the attackers, which included militants from the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).
A series of threats and intimidation tactics have also been directed at the Liberal Islam Network (JIl), which promotes liberalism and pluralism among Muslims and is open to dialog with followers of other faiths.
Frequent intimidation and evictions of Christians from their houses of worship by Muslim extremists, have also been a regular occurrence in recent months — particularly in western Java.
“Garda Kemerdekaan members will act as reinforcements to protect places that have been targeted by hard-line groups,” Taufik told The Jakarta Post.
To prevent it from being branded just another militia group, he said no Freedom Guard members would be equipped with any type of weapon while carrying out their peaceful mission.
Also joining the new group are individuals representing various religious organizations, including Nahdlatul Ulama — the country’s largest Muslim organization, the Bishops Council of Indonesia (KWI), the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) and the Hindu Community.
Activists and supporters of Ahmadiyah and JIL as well as members of many ethnic groups, such as Chinese-Indonesians and Madurese, were among those attending Friday’s declaration.
Prodemocracy activists from several non-governmental organizations and journalists grouped in the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) also took part in the establishment of Garda Kemerdekaan.
Nong Darul Mahmada, a JIL activist who was among those who witnessed the declaration, called on all people to strive for their own freedom, while expressing their thoughts and beliefs.
“Each of us is different from one another and it is our own right to have freedom of expression in this diverse nation. None of us is allowed to abuse others,” Nong asserted.