Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Seals on Protestant Churches, threats to Catholics during Holy Week, the closure of mosques and institutions belonging to the Ahmadi sect are but a few of the big and small examples of marginalisation minorities endure every day. In order to raise awareness among the public and foreign media on the frequent violations of the rights of religious minorities, hundreds of Christians, Ahmadis and Shia Muslims marched yesterday through the streets of Jakarta. They called on the much criticised government to take swift and effective action to ensure full religious freedom and equal rights for all of Indonesia's citizens as guaranteed by the constitution and the country's founding principles of Pancasila. The archipelago is the world's most populous (and predominantly Sunni) Muslim nation.
The 300 protesters who met yesterday in the streets of the capital shouted slogans and prayed together, each according to his or her faith. After that, they sang the national anthem and marched towards the People's Representative Council (House of Representative) building.
In the past, members of the Yasmin Church (YC) and the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HBKP) had chosen for their protest another symbolically charged site, the official residence of the President,.
Rev Simanjutak, leader of the HKBP community, welcomed the interfaith march. It sends a clear message to the authorities, which are not paying attention to the issue. In his criticism, the Protestant clergyman does not spare President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who has done nothing "to prevent attacks by extremist groups."
An activist institution, the Setara Institute, has provided evidence of the seriousness of the situation, documenting at least 264 cases of attacks and episodes of direct or indirect violence against religious minorities.
Although it formally guarantees the constitutional principle of religious freedom, Indonesia is increasingly the scene of attacks and violence against minorities.
In Aceh province, the only one in the country ruled by Sharia or Islamic law, and in many other places, a more radical and extreme visions of the Muslim religion is taking root in people's lives.
In addition, some rules, such as the infamous Izin Mendirikan Bangunan or building permit, are used to prevent the building of non-Muslim places of worship or to have them closed down and sealed.
In its response, the government has accused some minority leaders of using the permit issue to turn an administrative question into a political-religious one.
In particular, on several occasions Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali attacked the YC and HKBP for casting a bad light on the government and the country in foreign media.