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Ahmadiyah refugees to take risk, return home
Panca Nugraha, THE JAKARTA POST, MATARAM
After living in uncertainty at a refugee center in West Nusa Tenggara for three years, 68 members of the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect have decided to risk returning home.
Syahidin, coordinator for the refugees, said the 68 people from 17 families would move from the Transito building in Mataram back to their homes in Ketapang hamlet, Gegerung village, Lingsar district, West Lombok regency, on March 14.
“We the 17 families, including mine, have decided to return to our homes in Ketapang, whatever the risk we might face, after having lived here in uncertainty for three years. We want to live like any other citizens,” Syahidin said Friday.
He added at least four people had died at the refugee center, while nine babies were born there during the same period.
At least 160 Ahmadiyah members from 33 families were driven from their homes after hard-line Muslims attacked them and destroyed their homes and belongings in early February 2006.
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) previously issued an edict calling the Ahmadiyah heretical. The edict was seized upon by other hard-line Muslims to attack the sect’s followers elsewhere, including in West Java.
Based on the edict, among other factors, the government then banned Ahmadiyah followers from spreading their teachings.
The MUI said Ahmadiyah followers had deviated from mainstream Islam by believing that sect founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet.
Human rights activists have long deplored the attacks against the sect’s followers and criticized the MUI for issuing the edict that triggered the widespread violence.
Syahidin said the 17 families decided to return home because their houses were still habitable, while the remaining 16 families chose to stay because their homes were completely destroyed. He added he hoped the police and local administration would accompany the refugees on their return.
“But if they don’t, we will still go back home. On the security front, we believe the police are responsible for security,” he said.
The Social Services Ministry previously stopped donating rice to the refugees, saying they could no longer be considered refugees because they had lived at the center for three years. The ministry said the rice stock would be prioritized for victims of natural disasters.
Jauzi Djafar, West Nusa Tenggara chairman of the Indonesia Ahmadiyah Group, said his group had sent a letter to Governor M. Zainul Majdi to inform him of the planned return.
He added copies of the letter were also sent to the President, Vice President, home minister, religious affairs minister, social services minister, National Police chief, attorney general and the National Commission on Human Rights.
“We sent the letters on Feb. 20 to high- and low-ranking officials, including in Gegerung,” he said.
He added the planned return was the Ahmadis’ own initiative since the government had seemingly forgotten their plight.