Monday, September 26, 2011

INDONESIA - Only One Way to Deal With Religious Strife

Is Indonesia headed for another round of deadly sectarian violence?

Following the suicide bomb attack in Solo which has so far claimed two lives and injured more than 20 worshippers in a church, the country’s political elite has a lot of questions to answer, and we need a firm and determined response from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The Solo suicide attack comes on the heels of a violent clash in Ambon a few weeks ago and police have stated that there could be a link. Human right activists and a priest have warned that a campaign to exacerbate inter-religious tension between Christians and Muslims could be under way. If this is indeed true, the nation is headed down a very dangerous path.

The continued violence targeted at churches and other minority groups is not random. The security apparatus has been working hard to arrest terrorists and disband cells within the country but as the Solo attack vividly illustrates, there is no shortage of young people willing to take up the jihadist cause.

Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali strongly condemned the suicide bombing at the Kepunton Bethel Church and urged the police to investigate the attack. The minister, however, has to go further and reign in Islamic boarding schools that preach hatred and violence. In fact, he must have the courage to shut them down and discipline the ulama who incite their followers to commit violence.

Such violence and hatred do not breed in a vacuum. Unfortunately, Indonesia has become a haven for radical groups who seek to sow intolerance amongst the population, especially in the rural heartland. To counter such groups and the longer-term trend, the country’s political elite must condemn whoever commits violence in the name of religion, even if the individuals come from within their community.

A zero-tolerance policy against religious and sectarian violence must be implemented immediately and enforced by the top political leadership in the country. There can be no two ways about it. The nation’s future is at stake unless strong measures are taken to push back radical groups and stop the spread of speech that incites hatred and violence.

How many more such attacks must the nation endure and how many more innocent lives must be lost before strong, stern action is taken against those who seek to destroy our reputation for tolerance? Jakarta Globe

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