Calls for action on Indonesia's Intl Day of Tolerance

Calls for action on Indonesia's Intl Day of Tolerance
Indonesians parade with drums and torches on the eve of Eid al-Adha festivities in the capital city of Jakarta on October 14, 2013.

INDONESIA - Champions of pluralism urged the government to heed their call to counter the rise of religious intolerance.

Wahid Institute's Yenny Wahid - icon of pluralism, Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid's daughter - said that the government needed to ensure its citizen's rights to practice their religion.

"What is the use of the government if not to enforce the law and prevent conflict?" she said on the sidelines of an event to commemorate International Day for Tolerance, which falls every Nov. 16.

Religious intolerance still besets Indonesia even though an advocacy group says it recorded fewer incidents this year.

The Setara Institute, an NGO advocating religious freedom and pluralism, recorded 243 cases of religious violence as of November this year. Last year, the group said it recorded a total of 264 cases.

The Wahid Institute, which strives to preserve Gus Dur's legacy, stated in its 2012 report that religious intolerance had grown steadily in the last four years. The report showed that the number of religious-intolerance cases in 2012 stood at 274, up from 267 in 2011. In 2010, the institute recorded 184 cases and 121 cases in 2009.

Certain religious minorities have suffered persecution for years.

Currently, there are 232 displaced Shiites in Sidoarjo regency, East Java. They were evicted from their homes in Sampang, Madura, East Java, after the Sampang Sunni-Shiite conflict peaked on Aug. 27, 2012, when dozens of homes belonging to Shiites were set on fire and destroyed by an angry mob. The incident claimed two lives.

Both conflicting parties agreed to sign a peace agreement in September, but the local government have not yet allowed the Shiite minority to return homes.

On Thursday, members of the West Java chapter of the Indonesia Ahlul Bait Congregation Society (Ijabi), which represents minority Shiites, had to cancel its Ashura Day celebrations after the Bandung City Police revoked a permit previously issued by the Buah Batu Police.

Responding to the Sunni Shia conflict, Ulil Abshar Abdalla of the Liberal Islamic Network (JIL) said he was concerned that the Sunni-Shiite conflict would erupt if no firm action to prevent the conflict from growing was taken.

"A number of anti-shia movements are popping up in Indonesia, each with their own media outlets," he said.

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