President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sought on Friday to defend Indonesia against accusations that the republic was descending into greater religious intolerance.
“It cannot be justified if an individual or a group forces its beliefs onto others,” the president said in an speech prior to Independence Day. “And certainly not with threats, intimidation or violence.”
The president called on the country’s rich diversity, emphasizing that discrimination on religious grounds was contrary to the interests of the country.
“I want to remind all Indonesian people that the state fully guarantees the existence of individual or minority groups,” he said. “We have to prevent violence that disturbs the social fabric and national unity.”
Human rights organization the Setara Institute recently criticized the government for a lack of grit in cases of religious intolerance, allowing the branches of discrimination to spread and vigilantism to take root.
National agencies were behind only 60 of the 160 responses to incidences of religious intolerance, while citizens instigated the remaining 100, the report said.
In March, the HKBP Taman Sari church in Bekasi district was demolished by Bekasi Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) following objections from a hard-line group, Taman Sari Islamic People’s Forum (FUIT). The church was still in the process of obtaining a building permit.
In the same month, Satpol PP sealed the Al Misbah Ahmadiyah mosque in Bekasi under the authority of the city’s mayor, Rachmat Effendi, citing a regulation by the West Java government and joint-ministerial decree on the embattled sect. The decree prohibits the Ahmadiyah from proselytizing, but does not preclude the minority religious group from conducting activities pursuant to their religion.
“Violent conflicts happened because of weak leadership and regulations,” Maruarar Sirait, an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker, said on Friday. “Data show there are problems with the Ahmadiyah, conflict between Sunni and Shiites in Madura, [embattled church] GKI Yasmin and others. Upholding tolerance should be implemented with real action in the field.”