04/18/2017, 13.34
INDONESIA
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Religious leaders make an appeal in favour of democracy in Jakarta’s gubernatorial election

by Mathias Hariyadi

Seven religious organisations take part in a joint press conference to encourage voters to exercise their rights and respect the outcome of tomorrow's election. During the election campaign, religion was used and manipulated by Islamic extremist groups.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A few hours before Jakarta’s gubernatorial election, a number of religious organisations have issued an appeal for a peaceful and democratic election process.

Leaders from various confessions held a joint press conference yesterday to reiterate their support for the country’s pluralism after its most divisive campaign, characterised by sectarian tensions and conflicts. The meeting took place at the offices of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest moderate Islamic organisation.

The seven associations represented are: the NU executive council, the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI), the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), the Nichiren Shoshu Indonesia (NSI), the Indonesian Parisada Hindu Council (PHDI), the Islamic Organisation Friendship Body (LPOI) and the Confucian Supreme Council of Indonesia (Matakin).

The representatives of the seven organisations urged their members to exercise their civil rights without delay and respect the outcome of tomorrow's election.

"We have to keep calm and remain focused in addressing the situation,” said the representatives. “We have a moral obligation to support the government's efforts in the second round of election in Jakarta and safeguard peace and the nation's unity”.

NU president Said Aqil Siradj condemned the political use and manipulation of religion by extremist groups. He strongly criticised President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for not being resolute enough with those who pose a direct threat to democracy and the government.

The election in Jakarta pits incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Sino-Indonesian Christian, against Anies Baswedan, who is supported by radical Islamist movements.

During the election campaign, the two camps – those in favour of a democratic and pluralistic Indonesia versus fundamentalist Muslim groups who exploited ethnic and religious tensions for political purposes – clashed on several occasions.

Through their unremitting efforts, radical Islamist groups tried to discredit and block the candidacy of the Christian politician, thus increasing religious polarisation in the Jakarta gubernatorial race.

Since last October Ahok has been involved in a manipulated "blasphemy case" and numerous protests have been held in recent months to intimidate him.

The rival of the incumbent governor, Anies Baswedan, has used sectarian issues to increase his popularity with Muslim voters, especially among the more extremist.

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