No guarantee for religious freedom in Indonesia

Criticism of human rights award for Indonesian President:

Given the ongoing violations of the freedom of religion in Indonesia, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) protests against President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono being honored with a human rights prize by the American foundation "Appeal of Conscience". "It is absurd and borders on cynicism to praise Indonesia's President for his commitment towards religious tolerance, because both churches and mosques are being arbitrarily closed down by the Indonesian authorities," said Ulrich Delius, the STP's expert on questions regarding Asia, in Göttingen on Thursday.

The "world statesman" award – which is disputed in Indonesia, too – will be presented to Yudhoyono in the US today. The foundation "Appeal of Conscience" – which was founded in 1965 by the Jewish Rabbi Arthur Schneier (who was born in Austria and migrated to the US later) – wants to honor Yudhoyono for his commitment towards religious tolerance, towards the country's democratization process and human rights. Two weeks ago, the STP had already protested against the foundation's plans to honor the President of Indonesia. So far, the foundation has not responded.

"Sure enough, the parliamentary democracy in Indonesia was strengthened under President Yudhoyono," said Delius. But at the same time the number of violations of religious freedom against Christians, Shiites, Muslims and Ahmadiyyah-Bahai'I has increased. "This is not only due to attacks by extremist Sunnis. It is also the state authorities who are restricting the religious freedom of the religious minorities." Further, the security forces of the Muslim-majority state are suppressing any commitment of the Christian Papuans towards more self-determination. "As long as peaceful human rights activists from Papua are arbitrarily arrested or intimidated and treated as terrorists, no Indonesian politician should be given a human rights awards as a reward for the inhumane policy towards the people. This will only lead to more violence."

In 2012, several Christian churches had been closed down by order of the Indonesian authorities – allegedly because of missing building permits. 42 Ahmadiyyah mosques were forced to close since 2008. The Indonesian Minister of Religion accuses the Christians of being responsible for the growing religious intolerance, supposedly because they are demanding their rights too insistently in public.