Fresh controversy over human rights and pro religious freedom award to President Yudhoyono
by Mathias Hariyadi
Receiving the award, the Head of State recalls the achievements of his government, including economic growth and the fight against Islamist terrorism. Jesuit Fr. Suseno responds: the words do not match the facts. He adds, "the fundamentalists have defeated the state", not the other way around.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - "The president's speech is valid, if his words corresponded to an effective reality in the country", but the facts "speak of an entirely different story." This is the response of Jesuit priest and professor of ethics, Fr. Franz Magnis Suseno, to the clash between Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the government on the one hand and civil society, religious leaders and activists on the other. At the center of the controversy the awarding of a prize to the Head of State, for his - alleged - commitment to the defense of religious freedom and the rights of minorities in the country. The majority of Indonesians continue to judge the president's words as "unfounded", if not "nonsense", that do not reflect reality.

The controversy began in the aftermath of the allocation of the World Statesman Award to President Yudhoyono.  The prize was created by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF), based in New York and founded in 1965, and celebrates a personality who has distinguished his or herself in the field of defense of religious freedom. The first, dry response of the philosopher and Jesuit priest of German origin, who has been in Indonesia for 40 years, was followed by several other interventions - even by Muslim leaders - who question the decision.  Confirming the validity of this criticism, is a progressive increase of attacks against Shiites, Ahmadis and Christians in recent months.

The award ceremony took place in recent days in the U.S. metropolis, during which the president gave a short speech. Yudhoyono boasted of the commitment of the executive and rattled off the achievements of the past 15 years, including the best results ever in the fight against the economic crisis, social problems, fundamentalism, terrorism and separatist movements.

He also referred to his predecessor Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid - a true icon in the country - and claimed a commitment to similar results in terms of equal rights for minorities and a pacification of the critical areas.

However, the reality is different as explained by the Jesuit priest: "I really hope - said Fr. Franz Magnis Suseno - that what he said [Yudhoyono] in New York will be reality. So far its just words, which are not worth anything. " He recalls the violence against Christian and Ahmadis and overturns the president's on stage claims in New York: "Most of the time, it's the fundamentalists who defeat the state."