Sunday, December 11, 2011

Letter: Problems of religious intolerance

Letter: Problems of religious intolerance
| Sat, 12/10/2011 12:30 PM
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It is indeed a sad and tragic irony to find that Indonesia, one of the better experiments at transitioning from authoritarian quasi-one party rule during Orde Baru (new order) toward a healthy democratic nation since Reformasi,  is still unable after 13 years to curb religious intolerance.

Otherwise, Indonesia would be a jewel among nations. Even with all its social and economic challenges of wealth distribution, without an even more important redistribution of basic human rights among its citizens, it will remain forever tainted as another “fundamentalist” nation.

We know indeed, that perception to be untrue. However, the lack of backbone on the part of the central government, in particular that of the Minister of Religious Affairs, only conveys a false vision of tolerance. In the latest ruling on the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, we see a failure of local government to uphold the citizens’ basic rights; despite a court ruling in favor of the congregation.

I am a Roman Catholic, and have rarely if at all, experienced any direct discrimination on account of my beliefs in this wonderful and tolerant country.

My extended family practices several of the faiths recognized and guaranteed by the Indonesian constitution, including Islam and different sects of Christianity.

However, I do recognize that a gross violation of our citizens’ basic rights to worship freely and without interruption is being perpetrated not by ordinary people, but by the very institutions which have sworn to uphold above all laws, the 1945 Constitution.

Appeasement is the beginning of tyranny. Thus, if a municipal government as in Bogor thinks it can play a political game of chess by denying some of her citizens their basic rights of worship, then we are all eventually doomed. For morals and faith is the cornerstone of any society.

If those foundations are not sound, then we have but a facade of a democracy. Let us hope (and pray, in accordance to our respective beliefs and conscience) that 2012 will usher a new spirit of tolerance, peace and brotherly love among all Indonesian citizens, starting from a good example set forth by the Bogor municipal government to allow the resumption of services in GKI Yasmin church.

When Rosa Parks refused to make way and appease a white passenger who wanted to take her seat on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama, she opened all our eyes.

The same result, we hope, will be achieved as GKI Yasmin church congregation members continue their refusal to appease an unjust and politically minded local government.

Mario Vau

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