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Governors to set up interfaith forum
Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung
Home Minister M. Ma’ruf urged governors Thursday to sponsor inter-religious communications forums in their provinces to help minimize conflicts.
Ma’ruf warned that despite the generally peaceful conditions in the country, local leaders should stay alert to factors that might trigger friction.
The forums’ establishment, he said, was in accordance with a 2006 joint decree by the Religious Affairs and Home Affairs Ministries on the role of regional governments in maintaining religious harmony, empowering interfaith communication and establishing houses of worship.
“This (decree) covers horizontal conflicts that are usually triggered by friction among religions or among groups within the same religion,” he said during a meeting with the country’s governors in Sumedang, West Java.
The decree, he said, emphasized religious harmony as an important aspect of social harmony and national unity, adding that all regional heads, including governors, mayors and regents, should improve dialog with religious and community leaders.
He said no firm deadline had been set by the government for each region to establish a forum, but that it should be done quickly to open up communication and prevent problems.
“I’ve asked governors to respond to the call to form these groups immediately,” Ma’ruf said.
In the meeting he also warned of the need to implement his ministry’s regulation on a local intelligence community, which would coordinate information-gathering to produce accurate analyses of problems.
The community, he said, would raise awareness in each region, since social harmony could also be influenced by ethnic, cultural or economic gaps.
Religious conflicts have rocked several regions, such as in Ambon, Maluku and in Poso, Central Sulawesi, killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands more.
Muslim hard-liners have also repeatedly attacked followers of the Ahmadiyah sect in many parts of the country, most recently in Buton regency, Southeast Sulawesi. Militants there attacked an Ahmadiyah mosque while the group was performing Idul Fitri prayers last month.
Similar incidents in West Nusa Tenggara have left more than 250 Ahmadiyah followers living in temporary shelters after they were driven out of their village earlier this year.
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued a fatwa that bans the sect and forbids Muslims from following its teachings. The move was later criticized for helping to spark the violence against the group.
Ahmadiyah members follow the Koran and Prophet Muhammad’s teachings like other Muslims, but they believe Mirza Gulam Ahmad, rather than Muhammad, was the last prophet.