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Govt blamed for violence against minority groups
Yuli Tri Suwarni/Slame Susanto, The Jakarta Post, Bandung, Yogyakarta
An alliance of interfaith volunteers in West Java and Yogyakarta blamed the government for the rise in violence against minority religious groups in the two provinces, saying the government had failed to uphold freedom of religion as guaranteed by the 1945 Constitution.
The Network for Monitoring and Advocacy for Freedom of Religion (Jaker PAKB2) said it had recorded at least 54 cases of violence against Ahmadiyah and Christians between 1996 and 2008 in West Java, with a marked increase in violence since the provincial chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Association (MUI) declared Ahmadiyah a “heretical sect” in September 2007.
Suryadi Rajab, spokesman for Jaker PAKB2 and an advocate at the Bandung Legal Aid Institute (LBH), said the inability of the government and the police to act as fair and non-discriminating mediators has aggravated the situation and allowed for certain groups such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) to use violence against minority groups.
He said the sectarian violence in 1996 began with an attack on an Ahmadiyah mosque in Karang Tengah, Sukabumi. It then spread to Garut, Cianjur, Bogor, Bekasi and Kuningan, reaching a peak with the burning of an Ahmadiyah mosque in Parakansalak, Sukabumi, on April 28, 2008.
Suryadi also said violence against Christians had effectively forced them to hold Sunday prayers in their homes and shops because of restrictive rulings which made it difficult for them to secure permits to build churches.
“The government has failed to facilitate dialogue between religious communities to promote tolerance, and the police have failed to enforce the law and take stern measures against those using violence in the name of religion,” he said.
Suryadi said the government’s discriminatory stance was given further credence by mayors and regents who called for the disbandment of Ahmadiyah in Kuningan, Sukabumi, Cianjur and Cimahi.
“Finally, certain groups took it upon themselves to be the authority figures, and took the law into their own hands by executing this discriminatory policy,” he said.
Ria Anggraini, head of the human rights affairs division at the provincial religious affairs office, said many sides were to blame for the sectarian unrest.
“So far, Ahmadiyah has not been invited to sit together with other Muslim groups to work out their differences,” she said.
Gatot Rianto, executive director of LBH Bandung, said the government should protect the rights of the minority, who in this case had clearly been victimized.
Thousands of interfaith volunteers from the Yogyakarta Residents Against Violence Forum (FRJAK) call for peace and an end to the violence, in a ceremony at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta on Monday.
Governor Sultan Hamegku Buwono X also attended the ceremony. He said economy-oriented development programs were to blame for the rising use of violence in the name of “a certain religion”.
He also said the reform movement had failed to promote tolerance among religious communities.