The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has asked President Obama to address Indonesia’s growing struggle with religious intolerance when he visits the nation for the East Asia Summit Nov. 19.
“We believe your administration is uniquely positioned to address ongoing religious freedom problems in Indonesia,” USCIRF chairman Leonard Leo wrote in a letter to Obama.
Strong political forces, terrorist networks and extremist groups continue to threaten Indonesia’s democratic trajectory, causing ongoing religious freedom and human rights violations, Leo said.
“The administration should see religious freedom as an interest intertwined deeply with U.S. security, economic and political interests in Indonesia and as a critical component of better U.S.-Indonesia relations,” Leo wrote Nov. 14. “A creative and sustained diplomacy that protects and advances religious freedom can positively affect a whole range of issues, from the rule of law to the rights of women, from the protection of religious minorities from societal violence to the development of social capital that ensures economic growth.
“U.S. policy and programs should reflect this reality and focus on bolstering Indonesia’s ability to address past religious freedom problems and face new ones.”
USCIRF expressed concern over a rise in societal violence by extremist groups seeking to enforce one version of religious orthodoxy.
“Too often the police and local government officials tolerate or aid this violence and courts do not sufficiently punish perpetrators,” Leo wrote to Obama.
According to Compass Direct News in October, the Yasmin Church in Bogor, a suburb of Jakarta, remained sealed by the city mayor despite a Supreme Court order against his action and recommendation by the ombudsman to give the church back to the congregation.
“Higher authorities have taken no action against the erring mayor,” a church member said, adding that Indonesia’s largest Islamic party, the Prosperous Justice Party, known as the PKS, supported the mayor in the 2008 election. The PKS, which calls for a central role for Islam in public life, is seen as supporting some extremist groups, Compass said.
Source: Baptist Press | Erin Roach