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Home Worldwide Indonesia January, 2008 Rights activists seek …
Rights activists seek end to religious freedom violations

National News January 23, 2008 

Rights activists seek end to religious freedom violations

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Discrimination and acts of violence in the name of religion in the country have reached a level that could threaten democracy, rights activists have warned.

“The rights violations and discrimination, in terms of matters of religious freedom, have begun to threaten our constitutional system. The government, however, hasn’t shown its strong commitment to taking action against those who perpetrate attacks, discrimination and violations against the freedom of religion,” Hendardi, chairman of the coordinating agency for the Institute for Democracy and Peace (SETARA), told a hearing with House of Representatives lawmakers on Tuesday.

He said all state officials and citizens needed to protect the Constitution if they wanted to make the Constitution the citizens’ political tool.

SETARA submitted its 2007 report on human rights violations related to religious freedom at the meeting.

The report cited at least 185 violations of religious freedoms in 135 incidents in 2007.

The report said state officials violated citizens’ rights 92 times by imposing limitations on and arresting followers of allegedly heretical sects. It also said state officials ignored attacks on communities or groups 93 times.

Al-qiyadah al-Islamiyah suffered the most from these violations, followed by Christians and Catholics and then Ahmadiyah followers, said Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chief of SETARA.

Bonar said the state was supposed to be neutral regarding religious matters and that its decisions should be based on the Constitution and human rights policy, not the Indonesian Ulemas Council’s (MUI) edicts.

“It’s OK if the government takes suggestions from the MUI, but not to make decisions based on MUI’s statements alone,” he said.

SETARA proposed the government take the initiative of making a political review of the existing laws, which still allowed discrimination in religious matters; ensure legal actions toward officials who violate the Constitution; ask the Attorney General and Police Chief to take responsibility for ignoring violence; and disband the Coordinative Council for Monitoring Sects and Beliefs in Community (Bakor Pakem), which it considers counter to human rights and democracy.

Previously, SETARA voiced its concerns to Commission VIII, and plans to bring them to the attention of the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office. (rff)

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