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Jakarta post

by Jennie S. Bev

I love Indonesia and Indonesians, but I have some reservations whenever it comes to acknowledging a particular government. I had high hopes for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for he is the first president of Indonesia directly elected in a fair, square and honest democratic election process.

But today, by failing neither to reverse nor to nullify the joint decree restricting Ahmadiyya followers from freely practicing their religion within the terms that they believe, he and his staff have failed the Ahmadis, the peaceful moderate majority, and other non-Muslim minorities. Above all, he has failed humanity and the human race.

And for this to occur in Indonesia, which is an elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council among 47 members out of 63 contenders, is a real disgrace.

The Indonesian government's "bad habit" of legally persecuting minorities has not ceased after 10 years of the reformasi movement. Rewind 10 to 30 years and we can clearly recall how those who belong to the Chinese ethnic minority were culturally castrated, as a result of which their language, character, surnames, and traditions were considered "illegal" and "unlawful."

Under the New Order, laws were used to mutilate more than 4,000 years of great and influential Chinese history. And now, under SBY's rule, the same instrument is being used to discriminate against the Ahmadis.

Such a decree, which comprises a "social contract" between a religious minority and the commanding government, is unfair and unjust unlike any other. It is more than appalling. It is dehumanizing and unspeakably cruel, for it opens up many other doors to similar or escalating injustice, violence, and cruelty. In short, a precedent has been set for legalized persecution and a pandora's box has been opened.

Tears are not enough to describe the pains of being persecuted and drops of blood are not the answer. If only the Indonesian government can realize this before it is too late. Before waves of violence, or even massacres occur again.

It all started with theologiosclerosis between the mainstream understanding of Islam –as a religion of peace—and Ahmadiyya, which is perceived as a "heretical," sect that has been exaggerated and politicized by a minority of loud and demanding hardliners. While both are minorities in tolerant moderate Indonesia, the former is peaceful and quiet, but the latter is noisy and violent. Apparently, in Indonesia, due to some "hidden" political agendas, those sitting in the government appear to be suffering from crise de conscience or the condition of conscientiasclerosis.

Religiosclerosis, which is the hardening of the walls between religions, and theologiosclerosis, which is hardening of the walls between theological schools, should not be used as justification for crisis of conscience or, even, conscientiasclerosis, which is hardening of the walls between what is right and what is wrong. It might be true that Indonesia is one of the most corrupt countries in the world in terms of financial greed, but whenever it crosses the line by becoming so corrupt that it needs to legalize persecution, then this is no longer tolerable, even by a tiny margin.

Legalizing persecution is unacceptable anywhere and doing so in favor of those who are violent against those who are voiceless and helpless makes it even more blighting. The government seems to have lost its good judgment and the group that is and one that will be hurt the most is the majority, in addition to minorities. In this case, perhaps it would be better that the term pemerintah or "government," which literally translates as “one who gives order,” be re-defined as they no longer represent the interests of the majority.

I still have a lot of hope for Indonesia and Indonesians, but I would like to see more conscientious statesmen and stateswomen running the country and making sound decisions for all Indonesians, both the majority and minorities. Such people should have a strong moral foundation, pluralistic, multiculturalistic, and believe in the universal values of mankind. Perhaps what David Rothkopf said in his book Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making is true, that the world is ruled by a small number of influential people whose resources and power transcend all barriers.

In this case, Indonesia should identify their "guardian class" and work hard to cultivate an environment of benevolence and conscientiousness so that common sense and a conscientious culture can flourish.

Communications and dialogue must be encouraged to eradicate religiosclerosis, theologiosclerosis, and conscientiasclerosis, and to create a brand new paradigm of acceptance, cooperation and peaceful coexistence.

Unless Indonesia prevails in these areas and upholds the rule of law, the spiralling downward path into the darkness of night might reach the point of no return. This, we certainly do not want to happen.[]

The Jakarta Post, June 20, 2008

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