Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Catholic leaders, civil society and prominent figures of science and faith in Indonesia are protesting against the choice of an American foundation to reward President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for the promotion of interreligious dialogue. Philosopher and Jesuit priest Fr. Franz Magnis Suseno has sent a letter to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF), based in New York, criticizing the choice to grant the World Statesman Award to the Indonesian head of state. There have been a series of protests and demonstrations against the award, which will be given to a politician who - in reality - has done very little to ensure interfaith harmony and protect minorities.
Fr. Suseno points out that "during the eight-and-a-half years of his presidency, Yudhoyono has never told Indonesians to respect minority rights. He obviously does nothing to protect minority groups." As a result, he adds, it can be said that "no one has ever done anything concrete" to protect them. In the letter addressed to the leaders of the New York-based foundation, founded by Rabbi Arthur Schneier in 1965, he recalls the drama of hundreds of Shiites and Ahmadis expelled from their areas or killed because they were considered heretics in a nation that is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.
The Jesuit priest also asks with concern "will Indonesia's condition worsen and eventually become like Pakistan and Iraq, where Shiites are killed every month for religious motivations for sectarian reasons." And finally he adds the daily problems experienced by Indonesian Christians, from obtaining building permits to build places of worship to small episodes and discrimination cases. "Intolerance - he concludes - is rooted in the depths" of society.
The award ceremony is scheduled for the end of May, although the associations for human rights and civil society members promise to continue the battle for its cancellation. On May 6 there was a demonstration in the streets of Jakarta, where the participants tried to deliver a "petition" to the U.S. Embassy calling for the withdrawal of approval. "We have been the subject of repeated violence - recalls the Shiite leader Emilia Az J. Rakhmat - I just can not understand how they can reward [Yudhoyono] ".