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Home Worldwide Indonesia September, 2008 Groups say religious …
Groups say religious freedom at risk

National Thu, 09/11/2008 11:04 AM 

Groups say religious freedom at risk

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) and its 14 subsidiaries have expressed concern that rampant violence by hard-liner groups is threatening freedom of religion in the country.

They went on to say the state had not done enough to uphold the law and protect the rights and freedom of its citizens.

Many groups in society have resorted to violence in the name of religion to force their beliefs on other groups, particularly minority groups, the civil society group said at the end of its three-day executive meeting on Wednesday.

“We are facing a situation that is clearly endangering our existence as a nation: Growing intolerance and discrimination against minority groups.

“We believe the acts of violence have not only spread fear and directly attacked freedom and civil rights, but have also become a serious threat to democracy and cultural dialogue,” YLBHI chairman Patra M. Zen said, while reading out the groups’ statement.

The legal aid institutes have recently advocated victims of violence, including followers of Jamaah Ahmadiyah, which was declared deviant by the Indonesian Ulema Council.

Thousands of Ahmadiyah followers in the country have suffered involuntary displacement and attacks by hard-line Muslim groups.

To ease anger among hard-liners, the government has issued a joint ministerial decree banning Ahmadiyah from propagating its beliefs.

However, the decree has sparked protests from rights groups, who say the law denies followers of the sect their Constitutional right to freedom of religion and also from Muslim hard-liners who wish that Ahmadiyah be dissolved.

The decree has also been accused of justifying violence against Ahmadiyah.

“We observe that despite many cases of violence, the government, as the representation of the state, has failed to protect and guarantee human rights.

The government has occasionally let violence occur, or, in some cases, has been involved in the violence itself,” the groups said.

Human rights and freedom of religion are enshrined in the Constitution.

Dubbed the world’s third-largest democracy, Indonesia has also ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Culture Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN’s Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief.

The groups pledged to continue to defend human rights and put pressure on the government to uphold the law.

“We will take any possible legal measures against any legislation that threatens and violates the freedom of religion,” Patra said.

The groups also warned regional governments against enforcing ordinances that contradicted freedom of religion or discriminated against minority groups.

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