Freedom Elusive for Religious Minorities

Jakarta Globe, Indonesia
Ulma Haryanto | August 18, 2011

For Firdaus Mubarik, an Indonesian Ahmadiyah activist, Independence Day provides no cause for celebration.

“For me and my family, there is no Independence Day this year,” Firdaus said on Wednesday. “I don’t want to hear people talking about it or to watch celebrations, because I know my brothers are not free at all. Many more live in fear all across Indonesia.”

Firdaus referred to Deden Sudjana and Ahmad Nuryamin, who were sent to prison for defending their community from mob attacks. Deden was found guilty of violent assault and disobeying police officers during an anti-Ahmadiyah protest in Cikeusik, Banten, in February. Three Ahmadis were killed in the attack.

“I take it as a new experience. Now I know what it is like to be an inmate,” Deden said in a phone interview. “I also see this place as a temporary retreat.”

Deden is expected to be released in November, if he accepts the court’s ruling. “I decided to appeal. I haven’t given up my hope of seeking justice,” he said.

Ahmad, from Cisalada, Bogor, received an 18-month sentence for stabbing an attacker in self-defense in October 2010. In that incident, a group of 200 people attacked his village, looting and burning homes.

Ahmad admitted to carrying a knife, but he said he panicked and did not remember stabbing one of the teenagers who set an Ahmadiyah mosque on fire.

Ahmad was originally sentenced to nine months by the Cibinong district court, but he saw his jail term increased after appealing to the West Java High Court.

Meanwhile, Bona Sigalingging from the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor reflected on the congregation’s second year of having to pray on the roadside, because its church was still sealed by the city government.

“Our independence is still something to be thankful for. We feel that the current injustice is more reason for us to stand up and fight,” he said. The congregation church has held its Sunday services on the pavement since last April.

For Yap Sungkono, a Falun Gong practitioner, not being legally accepted as an official organization does not mean he cannot celebrate Independence Day.

“The group has a marching band and we were invited to perform today at the National Archives Building,” Yap said. Outlawed in China, Falun Gong activists are trying to make a new home in Indonesia.

The government has refused to recognize Falun Gong has a legal organization, though, based on input from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Religious Affairs, as well as the National Police and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).

Copyright 2010 The Jakarta Globe

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