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07/23/2022 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – The release of Muhammed Rizieq Shihab causes fear among Indonesian Catholics.

The Muslim cleric is known for founding the hardline Muslim organization Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). The Indonesian government has since banned the organization for “threatening Indonesia’s national ideology and engaging in criminal activities.

Mr. Rizieq is also known for his hate speeches that often target Christians. In 2016, the man accusingly said, “If God gave birth, then who would be the midwife?” Mr. Rizieq’s remark deeply offended Catholic Christians, who filed a report against him for blasphemy.

The man was arrested in 2020 for spreading false information concerning his COVID-19 test result. The court originally sentenced him to four years in prison which was shortened in 2021 by the Supreme Court to two years.

Although Mr. Rizieq was released, he is still on parole, meaning he could be sent back to jail if there is proof of misconduct.

Yohanes Handoyo Budhisedjati, chairman of the Jakarta-based Catholic political organization Vox Point Indonesia, advised that Catholics “monitor his activities,” especially any public speeches given. Mr. Budhisedjati also encourages Mr. Rizieq to respect Pancasila, the official Indonesian philosophy that promotes religious diversity.

Secretariat General Timothy Ivan also stated that he trusts Mr. Rizieq to uphold SARA (abbreviation for ethnicity, religion, race, and other social divisions) upon his release. Any negative comment made against Catholics and/or other minority groups could be grounds for re-imprisonment.

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