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More than two years in limbo for Ahmadiyah refugees
Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post, Mataram
After more than two years as refugees, the fate of hundreds of Ahmadiyah followers in West Nusa Tenggara remains uncertain, with the provincial government failing to take decisive action to resolve their situation.
The administration’s failure to act is despite a joint ministerial decree recognizing Ahmadiyah followers’ freedom to practice their faith but barring them from propagating their faith to others.
It is up to the refugees to help themselves by accepting the decree because they had been forcibly evicted from their homes by local communities, head of the nationhood and security affairs at the governor’s office, H.M. Nur said.
“The government cannot work alone to resolve the issue. The initiative must also come from the Ahmadiyah followers. They must be able to assimilate into society before we can return them to their homes,” he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Forty-eight families, or 194 people, have been living in temporary shelters at the transmigration building in Mataram, Lombok, and in a disused hospital in the city since 2006, when their homes were destroyed and they were forced out of their villages in Lingsar and Praya districts.
The forced evictions occurred after the Islamic Ulema Association (MUI) declared Ahmadiyah “heretical”.
Nur said the government had provided counseling for refugees so that they might accept mainstream Islamic teachings and live together with other Muslim people, but had made no effort to change public views or to reconstruct their damaged homes.
The refugees need intensive counseling and guidance before they can be sent home, head of the provincial religious office Lalu Suhaimi said.
“The evaluation will determine whether or not the followers have truly adhered to the items (in the decree). We are considering whether to return them to their home villages, but it all depends on the community there,” he said.
Ahmadiyah followers living at the transmigration transit center in Mataram said they were resigned to their fates and had little expectation of being returned home any time soon.
“We have celebrated Independence Day and the Ramadan fasting month in the shelter three times now. We are resigned to our fate,” Ahmadiyah refugee coordinator Syahidin told the Post.
“It’s the same with or without the SKB decree, despite our strong desire to return home.”
He said the refugees were ready to be rehabilitated, but none of the authorities had come or contacted them for counseling.
Provincial legislative vice speaker Muhammad said the Ahmadiyah issue in West Nusa Tenggara called for mutual understanding and decisive leadership on the part of the provincial administration.
“The provincial administration should not have let the issue drag on, but should realize that Ahmadiyah followers are also humans and citizens. The government is obliged to help them go back to their home villages,” he said.
The administration should mediate a dialogue between the refugees and residents from their hometowns, he said, adding that if both sides were not on equal terms, assimilation could not be achieved immediately.