Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Give a Thought During Christmas for Who Will Speak Up for the Persecuted

Indonesia’s claim to practicing religious tolerance seems to grow increasingly tenuous every passing year as complaints about intolerance continue to mount.

This year, the National Commission for Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, received 67 reports of cases of religious intolerance, nearly double the 39 reports that it received in 2013.

Attacks on churches and minority houses of worship accounted for most of the reports, in which, by all accounts, there have been no arrests or indictments.

That such serious offenses go unpunished — and are often aided by the police, who either back the hard-liners mounting the attacks or do little to prevent them — is a travesty in a nation that continues to impose draconian blasphemy charges for the slightest affronts to Islam.

One of the most egregious cases to date is that of the GKI Yasmin congregation in Bogor, which has been locked out of its church since 2008, despite two Supreme Court rulings ordering the municipal authorities to allow the congregation back into the church to worship. The new Bogor mayor, Bima Arya Sugiarto, pledged to resolve the matter when he came into office in April, but has since backed down, refusing even to acknowledge the existence of the congregation.

If the congregation has to mark yet another Christmas on the sidewalk outside its sealed-off church, their prayers interrupted by heckling from Islamic hard-liners, it will be one more black mark on Indonesia’s claim to being a bastion of tolerance and pluralism.

But the congregation can at least take comfort in knowing that it is not the first group to have been denied a place to rest on Christmas.

For shame, Indonesia, for shame. And a very merry Christmas to all.


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