09/18/2008, 00.00
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For Indonesian Church anti-pornography bill threatens national unity

by Mathias Hariyadi
Laity and Justice and Peace Commissions come out against the proposed legislation because it favours divisions and ethnic conflicts. Proposed law stems from an attempt to introduce Sharia and turn the country into another Saudi Arabia. The bill is opposed by the country’s middle class and cultural elite.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Indonesian Catholic Church is against a proposed ‘Anti-pornography and Anti-porno Actions’ bill (known in Bahasa Indonesia as Rancangan Undang-Undang Anti Pornografi dan Pornoaksi or RUU-APP) currently under consideration by Indonesia’s parliament which should vote on it this coming 23 September.

In a statement issued by the Laity and the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI), the country’s bishops “have firmly condemned any attempt to adopt this bill in parliament.”

For many people in Indonesia’s cultural, religious and artistic milieus, under the pretence of regulating personal morality and sexually explicit programmes and publications, the proposed legislation on pornography would end up “destroying national unity” and wipe out “cultural and religious differences” as well as impose Sharia or Islamic law across the country.

The communiqué signed by the Laity Commission Secretary General Fr John Edy Purwanto and Justice and Peace Commission Secretary General Fr Edy Sanasi OSC expressed “deep concern” over the bill, stressing the challenge the nation is undergoing at a time when it is called to take decisive steps on “the path towards democracy.”

“Social disintegration and sectarian violence, which the anti-pornography bill favours, are in contradiction with the concept of democracy,” the press release said, adding that “the bill is far from the spirit that inspired those who wrote the constitution, which favour pluralism and minority protection everywhere in the country.”

For the two clergymen any attempt to approve the bill must be stopped. At the same time “an in-depth debate” must be carried out so that its controversial points can be looked at from “different points of views.”

The bill has come under fire from the country’s intelligentsia for whom the attempt to have the bill adopted during Ramadan is in itself “an act of pure pornography” since the public’s attention is on something else.

“Let us have people discuss the issue openly so as to reach a better solution,” said Prof Franz Magnis Suseno SJ, a man religious who teaches ethics and philosophy.

The issue is “complex and delicate” and should not be decided in statements that predetermine when and how the bill is to be approved, especially when the latter are decided without public input and in secreto.”

Lastly the ethics and philosophy professor slammed a comment made by a representative of the hard-line Islamic Prosperity and Justice Party, who said that the porn bill would be “a gift for all Indonesians during the holy month of Ramadan.”

On the contrary, for Professor Suseno such a gift is sheer hypocrisy and a “potential threat to stability.”

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