by Mathias Hariyadi
1/18/11 Indonesia (AsiaNews) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and the entire ruling class are in the middle of a crisis of “conscience,” paying attention “to political games” and forgetting “the fundamental values of the individual”, including “religious freedom”, Theophilus Bela, president of Jakarta Christian Communication Forum and Secretary General of Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace tells AsiaNews. The alarm raised by the Christian leader is confirmed by the cases of sectarian violence: “In 2009 – he said – there were a dozen cases of attacks on places of worship or faithful, but by 2010 the number has jumped to 45 episodes” .
President Yudhoyono has urged a closed-door meeting with religious leaders to defuse the controversy around his work and that of the entire executive branch. Last week, nine leaders of the interfaith movement pointed the finger at the authorities, accusing him of failing to keep many promises, including a full implementation of the “freedom of religion.”
In particular, in 2010 there was an exponential growth in cases of attacks against Christians, the violence has involved churches, hospitals and Catholic buildings in West Java, Jakarta, Central Java and Solo, added to dozens of incidents of assaults and devastation wrought by Islamic fundamentalists against Protestant churches, in the complete indifference of the Government of Indonesia.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Theophilus Bela claims the right to evangelize and freedom of thought for all Indonesians, including Christians. He adds that religious leaders “can not remain silent” if they see something wrong in society. Authorities, he denounces, are also slow to curb cases of violence by Islamic extremist groups. And for Christians, he concludes, there are two crucial points to be resolved: the freedom to practice their faith according to traditional rites and the ability to build churches.