“Differences in ethnicity and religion should not be an obstacle to building the Banten we all love,” Ratu Atut Chosiyah said. “With all its potential, Banten is a [microcosm] of Indonesia’s diversity.”
“We should safeguard this [diversity] so peace can prevail,” she added.
The governor said 11 years of peace had prevailed in the province until recent attacks.
In February, three members of minority Muslim sect Ahmadiyah were killed by a mob after they refused to leave a cleric’s house in Cikeusik subdistrict, Pandeglang.
“[Harmony] has been sullied a little bit,” the governor said. “I hope this kind of incident will not repeat itself in the future. This has become a valuable lesson.”
Ratu was speaking at a Chinese cultural program in Tangerang, Banten, which saw violent clashes between law enforcement officers and residents last year when the local government tried to evict more than 1,000 people from a poor community in Neglasari.
Residents of Cina Benteng have been in mediated talks with the Tangerang administration over the eviction attempts, which are part of a bid to reclaim land along the Cisadane riverbank.
Ratu, who toured the settlement on Sunday, said the problems faced by ethnic Chinese residents in Neglasari should be settled through peaceful dialogue.
However, Tangerang officials have so far failed to appear in the dialogues, which were initiated by the central government and the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to resolve the issue.
Nevertheless, Edi Lim, head of the Cina Benteng Community Forum, thanked Ratu on Sunday for her support in the long-running land dispute and her efforts to bring back peace in the province.
On the same day, however, protesters in Bogor, West Java, rallied against a ban against worshipping that was enforced against the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin congregation.
Hundreds of demonstrators claiming to belong to the Forum for Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Forbathin), a group advocating unity in diversity, held the rally in front of the Bogor State Palace on Sunday.
“This ban on worship on the Yasmin church is no longer a local problem,” one of the protesters said. “This is only an example of the intolerance that is taking place under the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.”
GKI Yasmin has been fighting with Bogor authorities, who have closed down its churches and banned followers from practicing their faith, despite a Supreme Court verdict affirming the group’s right to worship.
In moves that further fueled religious tensions, the governors of West and East Java have issued decrees banning Ahmadiyah from proselytizing.
Critics say such policies encourage attacks against minority faiths and hamper efforts to foster religious tolerance.