05/20/2013, 00.00
INDONESIA
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As fresh anti-Ahmadi violence breaks out, presidential spokesperson says Yudhoyono protects religious freedom

by Mathias Hariyadi
Extremists target an East Java mosque used by Muslim "heretics". The presidency and minority leaders continue to spar after a Jesuit priest and philosopher who wrote an open letter is accused of stirring sectarian tensions and portraying the country in a bad light.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Fresh sectarian violence broke out in Indonesia, involving once again the Ahmadi Muslim minority, deemed heretical by mainstream Muslims because it does not recognise Muhammad as the last prophet and has, for this reason, become the victim of persecution and abuse by Sunnis.

The latest incident took place a few days ago. It involves the Baitul Salam Mosque in the village of Gempolan, Pakel sub-district, East Java province, and follows a similar one in early May in West Java, where Ahmadi homes and mosque were attacked.

Episodes of this kind have fuelled a controversy over an award given to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for his role in defending religious freedom, something strongly disputed by Catholic leaders and leaders of other minorities.

The incident in question began when a mob of hundreds of extremists attacked the Baitul Salam Mosque, throwing stones and other objects against the building, causing major damage.

Ostensibly, the attack was caused by a dispute between the head of the local Ahmadi community and leaders of neighbouring villages. The head of the "heretical" minority had in fact rejected demands that he stop worship services and spreading the Ahmadi ideology.

Such sectarian incidents have also caused tensions between the leaders of the country's minorities and government officials in Jakarta with regards to an award given to the Indonesian President for his role in protecting religious freedom.

A presidential spokesperson reacted with harsh words to the criticism voiced by Fr Franz Magnis Suseno, a philosopher and Jesuit priest, in a letter he sent to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF), criticisng their decision to give President Yudhoyono the World Statesman Award.

In his statement, Julian Aldrin Pasha accused the Catholic religious of stirring sectarian tensions and spreading negative views about the highest office holder in the land. Instead, the award was given in recognition of the "good things [the president has] done to promote peace, confessional harmony and democracy."

Still, despite the presidential spokesperson's shrill accusations, facts speak louder than words as religious minorities continue to be the target of violence.

Increasingly, people are of the opinion that Yudhoyono's "empty words and statements" are rarely followed up with real action to protect religious freedom and minorities.

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