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Minorities doubtful of freedom of religion
Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, JAKARTA
Representatives of minority groups, including religious leaders, affirmed pledges by vice presidential hopefuls during a televised debate to place religions on top of the state, saying it is a must if the country wants to uphold the freedom of religion and avert it from politics.
But, they remained unhappy with the lack of statements from the candidates on how to transform their pledges into actions, and allow all people to conduct their faith free from state interventions.
Chairman of the Communion of Indonesian Churches (PGI) Andreas Yewangoe said the problems regarding freedom of religion were due to frequent intervention from the state.
“And symbol of religions remains dominant in political arena in the country,” he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
He said further discussions on the role of religions and state were still badly needed.
Vice presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto, Boediono and Wiranto debated the role of religions and state as one of topics in the televised debate aired by the SCTV station Tuesday night.
Andreas from PGI said many bylaws in a number of regencies still used religious symbolism, showing the intervention of state.
Executive secretary of interfaith relationships of the Bishop’s Conference of Indonesia (KWI) Benny Susetya said statements from vice presidential candidates on the role of religions and state were still normative.
“It is right the religions should be above the state as the religions teach values of life, but in practice, there are still too many interventions from the state on the religion affairs, meaning political interests remain dominant,” he told the Post.
“The state must be neutral; it should not intervene in the people’s faith. The state only aims to ensure all people are free to practice their faith.”
Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia Deputy Secretary General K.S. Arsana said in general the three candidates spoke in the same tone regarding their commitment to pluralism and interfaith tolerance.
“However, two pairs show a better commitment — Megawati Soekarnoputri-Prabowo and Jusuf Kalla-Wiranto.”
Arsana said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s agreement to pass the ponography bill into law during his governance showed the incumbent lacked commitment toward pluralism.
“The bill was very controversial, and its passing into law was triggered by a certain group for its political interests.”
A follower of the banned Ahmadiyah sect, Saeful, felt the three presidential pairs had beautifully articulated their commitment regarding interfaith tolerance.
“However, I believe they will be very bad in applying it. Personally, I think SBY is a very good man, but considering the political forces behind him now, I am very doubtful he is strong enough to put his ideals regarding tolerance into practice.
“Kalla has clearly shown his lack of support toward pluralism by his support towards the joint-decree on religious affairs.”
Rusli, a member of the Indonesian Tridharma Magistry (Matrisia), part of the Council of Buddhist Communities, shared Saeful's remarks.
“All of the candidates say beautiful things about tolerance on religions, but it is only a lip service to their campaigns.
“I have to say that I am very keen on the statements of Prabowo and Boediono, who said religions should be separated from politics.
“My sentiment is not the same towards Wiranto, who still believes that mixing religion with politics is a good thing.” (hdt)