(Voice of the Persecuted) Today, a letter from Voice of the Persecuted was hand delivered to Indonesia’s President Jokowi regarding the extreme pressure Indonesian Christians are facing, particularly in Aceh province. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation and intolerance against minority groups, including Christians, have been increasingly on the rise.
Indonesia with a motto, ‘Unity in Diversity’ is thought by many to be a tolerant secular nation. Aceh, the only Indonesian province to enforce Islamic law (Sharia) has seen escalating violent attacks and pressure put on the Christian community(see photos and Oct. 25, 2015 report of recent church attacks and government demolitions). However, an increasing radical and extremist Islamic view is branching out to other parts of the country. The Christians are tense and greatly concerned for their religious freedom and equality. Voicing they’re distress to the global community, they pray many will hear. Please remember and keep them in your prayers.
Letter to the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo
Kementerian Sekretariat Negara
Jl. Veteran No. 17 -18 Jakarta Pusat 10110
Tel: +62 21 3845627
Respectfully, we at Voice of the Persecuted, a religious and human rights organization (USA) are contacting you on behalf of Christians in Aceh Singkil. Targets of rising intolerance, a large number were forced to flee from threats and violence by radicals in Aceh province. We are concerned to hear upon their return, they were pressured to agree with decisions and rules made by Muslims and the government of Aceh Singkil to receive protection.
Churches in Indonesia have seen imposed closures by local officials and attacks by fundamentalists groups since 1998. However, this issue is aggravated in the province of Aceh where Sharia law is applied. Your comments have not gone unnoticed, “Stop the violence in Aceh Singkil,” and “Violence of any kind, particularly one motivated by religion and faith, will only damage plurality.” We agree! Without delay, something must be done to end this aggression for the protection of Indonesia as a whole.
In your esteemed position, we humbly request that you revise the Joint Ministerial Decree (PBM) No. 8 and 9 of 2006 on Guidelines for the Implementation Task Regional Head/Deputy Head of the Maintenance of Religious Harmony, Empowerment Forum for Religious Harmony, and the Construction of Houses of Worship. We implore you to expedite this necessary action as a champion for the protection of religious minorities, your fellow citizens, without waiting for the legislative process in Parliament and the government plan for a Protection Act.
We ask that you lead by example and guide your nation to uphold the Constitution pertaining to religious freedom and Indonesia’s motto, ‘Unity in diversity’. As part of Indonesia and without exception, the government of Aceh must abide with the accordance of rights and enact freedom of worship and the freedom to establish places of worship without discrimination.
Christian houses of worship are repeatedly and unfairly rejected, while unregistered Muslim mosques have been overlooked and allowed to operate in the region. This restriction is used as an instigator of prejudice and unrestrained mayhem, which was seen in the latest attacks on the Christian community and their churches by fundamentalist mobs in Aceh Singkil. Discriminatory legislation, specifically the clause of endorsement signatures for establishment of houses of worship, should be modified or eliminated for the betterment and protection of all Indonesian citizens.
We view it unreasonable for the local community, especially local officials in Aceh Singkil, or anywhere else in Indonesia, to demolish the houses of worship/churches that remain without permits. The state’s duty is to learn why the houses of worship have not been given permission. Supposedly, the duty of the state is to facilitate their ability to have houses of worship, and not vice versa. (Article 14 paragraph 3 and Article 28 paragraph 3 joint decree of Minister of religious Affairs and Minister of Home Affairs No.9 and No. 8 of 2006)
Given their importance to the local population, the government should protect, as opposed to destroying these buildings. Houses of worship are part of freedom of expression and assembly, a right of every citizen guaranteed by the 1945 Constitution and international conventions. That right must not rely on approval from others when intolerance has been gaining a foothold. Your government should simplify the licensing process for the establishment of houses of worship, including minority religions and do away with regulations that are contrary to the constitution and international conventions.
President Widodo, the world is watching. We are confident in your ability to quickly rectify the debatable issues surrounding licensing regulations and instruct local authorities to facilitate the need of granting all citizens the right to houses of worship. We also encourage you to begin a highly visible, nation-wide campaign promoting religious freedom, diversity and human rights to highlight your nation as a place where every citizen may live in peace without fear. We ask for you to turn your attention to those instigating hatred and criminal acts of the violence and to those who carry them out. To hold them accountable with appropriate penalties, to deter these actions now and in the future.
Mr. President, as a member on the world stage, your nation is in a unique position to set the standard as role model of true ‘unity in diversity’. Freedom of religion is a cornerstone right for all other fundamental human rights. At this critical time in history, all must work together to bring awareness and find permanent solutions to live side by side in peace and tolerance.
We pray that you will be remembered in history, as a national champion of human rights, religious freedom and the man who ended religious prejudice throughout Indonesia.
Lois Kanalos, Founder/Advocate
Voice of the Persecuted
Indonesian version available by request at firstname.lastname@example.org
States should ensure that every citizen can worship wherever they are throughout Indonesia.