In the face of ongoing, international protests in opposition, Indonesian President Yudhoyono intends to accept the World Statesman Award—an honor annually bestowed upon heads of state thought to be representative of religious tolerance and supportive of peaceful interfaith dialogue—as conferred by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF), an interfaith organization based out of New York. Yudhoyono’s nomination for the award has sparked outrage from international religious freedom and human rights advocates who note increasing persecution in Indonesia, including the forced closure of more than 50 churches and over 260 violent attacks against Christians and other religious minorities, in 2012 alone. Less than one week following testimony by a congressionally mandated bipartisan commission that accused both the Indonesian and American States of gross negligence concerning acts of religious intolerance in Indonesia, Yudhoyono stands to receive the prestigious award while chairing the final meeting of the U.N.’s high level panel on post-2015 development.
05/29/2013 Indonesia (AsiaOne) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has departed for the US, where he is expected to accept the World Statesman Award for promoting religious tolerance in the country, despite angry protests over his eligibility for the accolade.
At a press conference held shortly before he boarded the presidential plane on Monday, Yudhoyono turned on critics who have cast the award in a negative light, and insisted the recognition was due to the nation’s achievements rather than his success as an individual.
“I am aware of protests from some figures and groups. I respect their opinion, but you should also know that the award is from a credible international organisation that has closely observed our country for quite a long time. If the organisation decides to award our nation through its President, we must not see it in a negative light,” Yudhoyono said at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta.
Yudhoyono is on a six-day working visit, including a stop-over in Sweden, during which he plans to hold bilateral meetings with Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and head of parliament Per Westerberg. He will also meet with CEOs of Sweden’s top companies.
Yudhoyono is scheduled to leave Stockholm for New York on May 29.
In New York, Yudhoyono will chair the last meeting of the United Nations high level panel on post-2015 development. The President will receive the award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF) on the sidelines of the meeting.
Activists, including the prominent Catholic priest Franz Magnis Suseno, have protested against Yudhoyono receiving the award.
Presidential special staff member Daniel Sparingga said the government could not do anything about religious tolerance as it was in the hands of the people themselves.
“Tolerance is a problematic issue in every pluralist society. The ‘worsening’ intolerance, as cited by civil society and activists is actually a logical consequence of the greater freedom that we have,” he said.
Also on Monday, Albert Hasibuan, the President’s advisor on human rights, blamed religious intolerance on local government leaders who failed to follow orders from Yudhoyono.
Albert also said that he had asked Yudhoyono to be more decisive in giving orders to local government leaders and his subordinates.
Albert, who recently submitted a report on the management of cases of religious intolerance to the President, said he had found that police officers, as well as regional leaders, did not intend to resolve the cases despite pressure from the President.
“I made a report based on field observations and found that the President’s speeches were simply ignored. I think the President should now act more decisively otherwise such cases of intolerance will persist and this can be dangerous for the nation,” Albert said on Monday.