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Letter: Freedom of religion

ICC note: Indonesian pastor responds to recent call for the formation of anti-Christian militia units

7/2/10 Indonesia (JakartaPost) – As a co-pastor of a Christian church in Bekasi, I was saddened and deeply concerned by today’s frontpage headlines: “Hard-line groups target Christianity with sharia law”. There are five major problems connected with this push for sharia law and paramilitary groups:

It’s contrary to Indonesian law.
It’s contrary to individual liberty.
It’s connected with bullying tactics.
It’s contrary to a tolerant approach to conflict resolution.
It sets the stage for paramilitary groups to “take the law into their own hands”, which, in the past, has resulted in the loss of innocent lives and also property damage.

One of the reasons given by the chairman of the MUI for this “demand” is “to pass more sharia-based bylaws and regulations to limit apostasy .”.

But isn’t Indonesia a free country? If it is in truth a free country, doesn’t that mean that each individual has the freedom of speech and choice? If it is truly freedom, that people can make their own decisions, should this freedom only be limited to small things like which shampoo one chooses to use, and to be able to change brands if one wishes, or does it also apply to important issues like what religion one prefers?

If so, then prohibiting one from making a personal choice to leave the religion he was born into (“apostasy”) to join another religion he now believes to be true, is denying basic human rights, isn’t it?

Why should the Bekasi administration waste more of its important time considering something contrary to basic human rights?

When I came to Indonesia more than 20 years ago, I considered becoming a Muslim. I studied with a respected Muslim family in Rawamangun who now live in Bekasi.

I was told that one of the conditions was that if I wanted to join the Muslim faith, I must do it “at my own free will”, not just so I could marry one of their beautiful daughters.

If when you join and you can no longer exercise that same free will to “apostatize”, does that mean that your freedom of choice is lost along with his foreskin?

If not, then please don’t try to take away one of the most valued things treasured by Indonesians: freedom. “Give me liberty or give me death”.

Dan Adams
Jakarta

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