Editorial: Protect Pluralism With Vigilance

Posted on February 13th, 2012

February 13, 2012

Is pluralism under threat in Indonesia? From the rising religious intolerance displayed by radical groups, it might seem so. Minority groups across the country have come under increasing pressure from such fringe groups as the government has stood by.

With their backs against the wall, many groups are now pushing back. Over the weekend, residents of Central Kalimantan demonstrated in front of the Tjilik Riwut Airport to prevent leaders of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI ) from landing in Palangkaraya. The FPI leaders were scheduled to inaugurate the organization’s provincial branch in the city.

The residents opposed the FPI’s violent stance against minority groups and its continual riding roughshod over the country’s laws and social norms.

Despite the presence of such groups, pluralism is alive and kicking , according to a new survey conducted by the Syarif Hidayatullah University and the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR ). The survey says the vast majority of Indonesians — 95 percent — agree that religious freedom should be respected.

In a show of unity, thousands of representatives from various religions reaffirmed their commitment to pluralism and religious tolerance over the weekend to mark World Interfaith Harmony Week. Such an open display of a common purpose can only be good and further strengthen the nation’s social glue.

Every Indonesian should have the right to practice his or her faith in peace and security. Pluralism is embedded in the nation’s social fabric and forms the bedrock for social harmony. And it is the government’s duty and responsibility to ensure this right is upheld and protected.

Based on the survey, most Indonesians feel this way. The nation was born based on such values, even though radical elements within society have always existed. Democracy allows them to come out into the open and voice their views, but they must stay within the law.

If we are not vigilant, however, our tolerance to religious ethnic differences will slowly be chipped away by the constant attacks from radical groups. They can practice their faith as they see fit, but they should not be allowed to violently dictate what the rest of the population should believe.

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