Asean lawmakers urge Indonesia to tackle growing intolerance

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Jakarta, May 8 (IANS) Parliamentarians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Tuesday urged the Indonesian government to tackle rising intolerance in the country and protect freedom of religion.

The call came at the conclusion of a four-day fact-finding mission into cases of intransigence and fanaticism in Yogyakarta, on the island of Java, located 430 km southeast of Jakarta, Efe news reported.

“The spectre of growing intolerance and vigilantism threatens Indonesia’s democratic success. We cannot allow the spirit of democracy, human rights and Pancasila to be undermined by these dark forces,” Indonesian legislator Eva Kusuma Sundari said in a statement.

Indonesia, which has a population of 260 million with over 300 ethnic groups, has been governed since its independence from Dutch rule in 1945 by the principles of Pancasila, a system that promotes religious tolerance, a just and civilized humanity, unity, a popular democracy and social justice.

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“The authorities must ensure that all faith communities are afforded equal protection and the freedom to worship and practice their religions,” Sundari said.

The mission, comprising of lawmakers from Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand, met the authorities in Yogyakarta, civil groups and marginalized communities including the LGBT community.

According to the delegation, Yogyakarta “has seen an increasing number of incidents in the past several years, in which religious minorities, LGBT people, and other members of vulnerable groups have been targeted by vigilantes with intimidation and violence”.

Some of the people interviewed by the mission said the events were politically motivated, rather than for ideological or religious reasons.

In January, Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Director of Asia Phelim Kine accused Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his government of “turning a blind eye to worsening harassment of religious and sexual minorities”.

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The Asean is a regional bloc made up of Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

–IANS

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