01/13/2015, 00.00
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Jakarta: Religious Affairs minister defends teacher accused of "proselytising"

Lukman Hakim Saifuddin intervenes in a dispute involving a Muslim professor in Banda Aceh, who took her students to a church. He called the dean of the university, asking him to protect the professor and her job. Despite death threats against the professor, he also called her to "stay calm" because the matter "has been addressed in the most appropriate way."

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Indonesia's Religious Affairs Ministry has intervened in a dispute involving an Islamic religious professor in Banda Aceh, "guilty" in the eyes of some Muslim extremists of "proselytising" in favour of Christianity because she brought a group of her students to a church.

As a result of the trip, Rosnida Sari, a Muslim, has become the victim of a vicious smear campaign and has received death threats. Some fundamentalist groups have gone so far as to "advise" her to "leave" the country.

In reality, all that Prof Sari was trying to do was to promote interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding among believers, starting in school.

Speaking to AsiaNews, interreligious dialogue activist Joan Elga Sarapung, from the Interfidei Group, said that Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin did call the dean of Ar-Raniry Islamic University, and asked him to "intervene" on the professor's behalf.

According to Sarapung, Minister Saifuddin called Aceh police authorities, asking them to provide protection for the teacher.

The Religious Affairs minister also spoke with the professor, who teaches Islamic religion, and told her that she would not be fired over the issue. He asked her to "stay calm" because the matter "has been addressed in the most appropriate way."

The dispute was sparked by the professor's decision to bring her class to visit a church and meet a Protestant clergyman.

After pictures of the visit were posted on the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, someone launched a campaign to discredit the Muslim teacher by claiming that she wanted to "convert" the youth to Christianity.

The original event, which occurred last November, became controversial only a month later.

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, the province of Aceh 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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