Representatives of the congregation, also known as the JAI, were invited by the Ministry of Religious Affairs to attend the conference in Jakarta, which was organized to help resolve the ongoing controversy surrounding the minority Muslim sect.
Zafrullah Pontoh, the JAI’s national secretary, said on Monday that the invitation had only been received on Friday. He added that the group had only been allocated four seats at the conference.
After discussions with its legal representatives, Zafrullah said the JAI had asked the ministry to reschedule the event. He said the group had also voiced concerns about the makeup of the conference invitees and the direction of the talks.
“In the invitation we received to attend this dialogue, we were given just four seats. Plus, they gave us very short notice,” he said at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI).
There was no word on whether the ministry would go forward with the event or reschedule.
Zafrullah said the JAI’s stance was clear that the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution extended to the Ahmadiyah community.
He also said other groups should be involved in any talks, including the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), because the problem had moved beyond a theological dispute and was now about protecting citizens.
“Due to the stigma attached to Ahmadis, we ask that this dialogue have set regulations and rules to give both parties enough time to offer thorough explanations,” he said. “There are so many misconceptions about Ahmadiyah. We want to be given a forum to clear up all the issues.”
Erna Ratnaningsih, chairwoman of the YLBHI, said the dialogue should be held on neutral ground, not at the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Nurkholis Hidayat, director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), said if the dialogue was only facilitated by ministry, the discussion would be limited to theological issues. “The bigger issue here is human rights,” he said.