01/19/2015, 00.00
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For Jakarta's Wahid Institute, the state is behind sectarian violence

by Mathias Hariyadi
According to a report by the prestigious institute, 51 per cent of cases of violence can be attributed to public officials and agencies. Police and security forces are negligent or share responsibility in attacks on minorities. Although the number of cases of violence has dropped, government policy has not changed. Even reformist newly elected president Jokowi has been inattentive to minority rights.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Government officials and civil servants are behind many episodes of sectarian violence, this according to a recent report by the Wahid Institute, a Jakarta-based interfaith organisation founded by late Indonesian president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, an iconic figure in interfaith dialogue.

Most of the religious attacks or abuses are the work of police and members of the security forces at the district and local levels. Last year for instance, government officials were involved in 80 cases, which corresponds to 51 per cent of all attacks. In another 78 cases (49 per cent), people from non-governmental groups were involved.

According to the Wahid Institute, police and security officials are to blame because they have failed to go after religious fundamentalism and the acts of violence perpetrated by extremist Islamic groups.

Often the police are negligent, inattentive or uninterested in doing their job, thus favouring attacks against Christians, including Catholics, as well as Muslim minorities.

The acts of violations of minority rights by state officials include the arbitrary cancellation of building permits for houses of worship, and the closing of churches and prayer houses even when they have all the necessary documents.

Added to this is a ban on celebrating religious services over the weekend, often imposed to appease the country's extremist groups.

The study shows, however, a 42 per cent drop over the previous two years in the number of cases in which freedom of worship is violated: 158 cases were recorded in 2014 compared to 245 in 2013.

Nevertheless, a drop in violence has not been matched by changes in government policy towards freedom of worship and religious freedom.

"Discriminatory laws and regulations are still in place without significant intervention by the state," said Yenny Wahid, president of the institute.

The daughter of the former president added that hundreds of Shias and Ahmadis have been denied their basic rights because they "are not mainstream Islamic groups."

So far, reformist newly elected President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has shown little concern for the protection of religious minorities.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has often been the scene of attacks or acts of intolerance against minorities, whether Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or people of other faiths.

Unlike the rest of the country, Aceh province enforces Islamic law (Sharia), after the central government signed a peace agreement with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

In many other parts of the country (such as Bekasi and Bogor in West Java), a more radical and extreme vision of Islam is also growing. (MH)

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