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ICC Note:
Thursday, the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, a bipartisan commission reported 264 recorded acts of violence committed against Christians and other religious minorities in addition to the forced closure of 50 Christian churches in 2012 alone, to members of Congress during a recent congressional hearing. As believers and activists around the world continue to criticize increasing numbers of violations of religious freedom and acts of violent persecution committed against Christians and other religious minorities, questions continue to surround the Administration’s pledge to enforce respect for human rights, a reportedly central tenant to it’s foreign policy pivot to Southeast Asia in hopes to expand growing bilateral economic ties with up-in-coming world players, like Indonesia. 
To support the faithful in Indonesia, please sign ICC’s latest petition demanding that the Indonesian government cease mandating the arbitrary closure of Churches and Cathedrals across Indonesia. Sign the petition here.
05/28/2013 Indonesia (AP) – The U.S. expressed concern Thursday over increased attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia, but human rights groups accused Washington of downplaying the problem as it looks to forge stronger relations with Jakarta.
Muslim-majority Indonesia has emerged as Southeast Asia’s most robust democracy since the fall of longtime dictator Suharto 15 years ago this week. But recent years have seen increased reports of violence and discrimination against Christians, minority Shiite Muslims and the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect.
The bipartisan Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, a congressionally mandated bipartisan commission that monitors human rights, held a hearing on Capitol Hill to assess the situation in Indonesia.
The commission’s Democratic co-chairman, Rep. James P. McGovern, cited figures from the Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based nonprofit group that monitors religious freedom, that there were 264 violent attacks on religious minorities in 2012, up from 216 attacks in 2010.
Senior State Department official Dan Baer voiced concern over such attacks and ineffective Indonesian government responses, saying that it threatens to tarnish the nation’s reputation for religious tolerance. He also referred to a “disturbing trend” in forcible closures of churches—including 50 in 2012 alone—and of Ahmadiyah mosques.
He called for stronger police action and legal reforms to signal protection for all minorities.
But Human Rights Watch criticized the U.S. response, saying it was refusing to plainly acknowledge in public what its officials admit in private—that religious persecution is worsening in Indonesia.
“Islamic militants are increasingly mobilizing in mobs to attack religious minorities with almost complete impunity,” John Sifton, the group’s advocacy director for Asia, told the hearing.
An annual State Department report published last week said the Indonesian government’s respect for religious freedom did not change significantly during 2012.
“The U.S. relationship with Indonesia is very strong, but in the relationship human rights is missing in a meaningful manner,” said T. Kumar, international advocacy director for Amnesty International USA.
He called for the Obama administration to seek the release of more than 70 political prisoners and the publication of a fact-finding report ordered by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono into the 2004 death from arsenic poisoning of prominent Indonesian rights activist, Munir Said Thalib.
Rights activists allege Jakarta wants to keep the report under wraps as it could implicate Indonesian intelligence.

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