Saturday, March 12, 2011

Communities join to combat violence

Sat, 03/12/2011
1:12 PM
Communities join to combat violence
Bagus BT Saragih and Irawaty Wardany, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Without using the government’s repressive tactics for handling sectarian violence, some community groups are joining hands to promote a pluralist and humanistic face for religions in the country.

“We can see that the government has been ignorant in handling cases of religious violence that have frequently occurred in this country recently, therefore we are making our own way by working with other moderate groups in society to improve conditions,” Moderate Muslim Society chair Zuhairi Miswari told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said they were working together to promote the peaceful and humanistic face of religion by participating in various anti-violence dialogues with religious communities in the city.

Aside from promoting understanding through interreligious dialogues, the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP) is also reflecting this principle by allowing people from any religion to join them.

“Anyone from any religion can join us because religion is something related to somebody’s freedom to make a choice,” ICRP general secretary Johannes Hariyanto said.

He said people in the ICRP considered religion basically a personal choice and not something somebody is born with, which cannot be changed.

Both Zuhairi and Johannes regretted the actions of some who have perpetuated violence in the name of religion.

“They are not only violating the law but also the constitution. Unfortunately those violations are justified by some laws and decrees,” Johannes said.

He was referring to regional regulations and bylaws, the 1965 Blasphemy Law and the 2008 joint ministerial decree banning members of Ahmadiyah in Indonesia from propagating their religious beliefs, but which allowed them to maintain their faith and perform their daily religious duties.

“Any efforts to bar Ahmadiyah followers from performing their rituals are against not only the 1945 Constitution but also a number of laws,” Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Haris Azhar said Friday.

He cited Article 28 of the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen religious rights.

Regulations made by provincial, regency and city administrations can be reviewed by the Supreme Court if they are considered out of line with higher regulations or laws.

As of March 2011, 12 local administrations have issued regulations banning Ahmadis from practicing their religion. The latest regions include East Java province, West Java province, South Sumatra province, Pandeglang regency and Samarinda municipality.

One province where religious violence has frequently occurred is West Java province.

On Friday, another assault of Ahmadis took place in Ciaruteun, Bogor, when hundreds of people suddenly attacked four homes of Ahmadiyah members.

According to Ahmadi spokesman Firdaus Mubarik, hundreds of people, including the perpetrators of Cisalada incident that took place in November of last year, suddenly ran over an Ahmadi after a provocative Friday sermon at the local mushollah (small mosque).

Fortunately, no casualties occurred during the incident, and the police took six people into custody.

That incident was only one in a series of violence in the name of religion, including the brutal murder of three Ahmadis in Cikeusik, Banten, last month.

Zuhairi blamed the joint ministerial decree, saying it was a “license to kill” for people who opposed Ahmadiyah. “The joint decree plus its derivatives became justification for [people] to do violence towards Ahmadis”.

According to the Center for Legal and Policy Studies (PSHK), most of the local bans on Ahmadiyah were made based on the 1965 Blasphemy Law. A number of NGOs filed a judicial review with the Constitutional Court last year to challenge that law. But, the court rejected the request and upheld the law

“The law is already too old and no longer in line with the current situation,” Fajri Nursyamsi from the PSHK said.

Therefore, Fajri urged the government and the House of Representatives to speed up deliberations of the religious tolerance bill. “The bill can accommodate more relevant situations and replace the old blasphemy law,” he said.

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