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MRG condemns attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia

10 February 2011

Minority Rights Group International on Thursday condemned recent attacks against religious minorities in Indonesia and expressed serious concern over rising levels of intolerance in the country.

‘These most recent attacks are appalling and unfortunately don’t stand alone. They come amidst reports of rising extremism and intolerance in Indonesia, trends that pose a serious threat to minorities,’ says Carl Söderbergh, Director of Policy and Communications at MRG.

On Sunday, mobs, numbering some 1,500 people, stripped naked and beat to death three members of the Ahamadiyya sect in the West Java province of Banten. On Tuesday, hundreds of people set fire to three churches and attacked a priest in the central Java city of Temanggung.

State authorities in Indonesia have come under severe criticism for not doing enough to curb the rising religious intolerance and in some cases provoking it. Local religious and human rights groups have criticised police in Banten for failing to stop the attacks against Ahamadiyya. In 2010, the Religious Affairs Minister, Suryadharma Ali, reportedly stated that he was planning to officially ban the sect. Ahamadiyyas are an Islamic sect that differs from mainstream Muslims because they do not accept Muhammad to be the last prophet of Islam. They face persecution in several Muslim countries. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country and has a longstanding reputation for religious tolerance.

According to independent non-governmental organisations working on religious freedom, there has been an increase in attacks against religious minorities in the past year. The Institute for Democracy and Peace recorded 75 such cases in 2010, as against 12 in 2009.
‘The issue of religious intolerance is not something that can be swept under the carpet. It needs to be taken very seriously. The government should send a clear message to extremist groups that such intolerance has no place in Indonesia. Perpetrators of such violence should be dealt with according to the law, and victims must have justice,’ Söderbergh adds.