Rights groups reject religious freedom award for Yudhoyono
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Urge the Appeal of Conscience Foundation to Withdraw World Statesman Award to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

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President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Details of protest at award ceremony in NYC to come, should the award go forward  e-mail us to be notified)


Rights groups reject religious freedom award for Yudhoyono

Margareth S. Aritonang and Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Tue, May 07 2013, 10:39 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 5

A coalition of victims of religious discrimination and rights groups have urged New York-based interfaith organization Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF) to drop its plan to give President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono the World Statesmen Award in recognition of his work to support human rights and religious freedom in the country.

The foundation has scheduled the award presentation for May 30 in New York, when the President will be on a working visit.


“How could SBY be given the award while we are being discriminated against and even attacked when performing our basic religious rights?” Filadelfia’s Rev. Palti Panjaitan said.

The coalition, which includes the Shia and the Ahmadiyah minority sects and the Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) and the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church congregations, all of which have suffered discrimination, staged a rally in front of the United States (US) Embassy in Jakarta on Monday to protest the ACF’s choice of Yudhoyono for the 2013 award.

It said that Yudhoyono did not deserve the award because he had failed to protect the rights of minority groups in the country.

“How could SBY be given the award while we are being discriminated against and even attacked when performing our basic religious rights?” Filadelfia’s Rev. Palti Panjaitan said.

The protesters demanded the US Embassy relay their message to President Barack Obama and the ACF.

Local rights groups have also criticized the move, saying it was an insult to victims of religious prosecution.

“We are deeply disappointed at ACF’s decision. We object because the President has failed to enforce the law to protect religious minority groups. He appears to have also ignored the conduct of state officials who have blatantly rebelled against the law, such as in the case of GKI Yasmin,” Choirul Anam of Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) said, referring to a Supreme Court ruling stipulating that the building permit for GKI Yasmin was legal and ordered the Bogor administration to reopen the place of worship.

Building permit issues have been the most cited reasons to justify discrimination against religious minorities, while another reason is blasphemy, of which Islamic minorities have been continuously accused, such as the Shia and the Ahmadiyah.

Authorities, including the police, seem to take the side of the perpetrators after attacks on the Shia and the Ahmadiyah by not strictly applying the law to the attackers but instead relocating the victims for safety reasons, which ultimately leaves them living in limbo for years.

The government’s reluctance to take firm action against vigilante groups has emboldened others to attack minority groups elsewhere, such the weekend ransacking of the Ahmadiyah village of Tenjowaringin in Tasikmalaya, West Java, and the Shia community in Sampang, East Java, last year.

Members of the Sampang Shia community, who were forced to take shelter in a local sports stadium after being attacked by the majority Sunni for so-called blasphemy, are struggling to survive as the local administration stopped suppling their daily needs as from May 1 due to budget constraints.

“There has to be something wrong with the process of making the choice because I believe that Rabbi [Arthur] Scheiner [ACF’s founder] will consider the sufferings of religious minority groups as he is a campaigner for human rights,” said Choirul Anam of the Human Rights Working Group.

Teuku Faizasyah, presidential spokesman for foreign affairs, said on Monday that Yudhoyono deserved the award for his achievements in contributing to the global interfaith movement.

“Some cases of religious intolerance do happen, but that should not blind his critics to the President’s achievements,” Faizasyah said.



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