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Catholic Church warns against rising intolerance in Yogyakarta

Jakarta Post - December 19, 2018

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta In a strongly worded statement, the Semarang Catholic Archdiocese has claimed that the incident in Purbayan, Kotagede, Yogyakarta, in which local residents cut the top off a cross-shaped headstone on a Catholic's grave and prevented his family from holding prayers was a violation against the state ideology of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.

The church reached the conclusion following an investigation conducted by its commission on peace and justice in Yogyakarta.

"The duty of the security apparatus and the government is to protect the human rights and basic rights of citizens," Agus Sumartoyo, who heads the commission's investigative team. said in a statement on Wednesday.

The commission claims to have found indication that the family of the deceased Catholic, Albertus Slamet Sugihardi, had suffered from acts of intolerance before despite his efforts to live harmoniously with his neighbors.

They were even once physically threatened, Agus said. "Some newcomers with the backing of outsiders had physically and psychologically pressured [the family], directly or indirectly, through some community members."

The team sent out by the commission also found that the written statement showing that Maria Sutris Winarni, Slamet's wife, would not make an issue of the incident was drafted and sent to her by seven people representing village officials, the police and local military command.

Winarni told the church that she was told to sign the statement to shut down the outrage on social media over the incident.

"The duty of the [state] apparatus is to protect the little ones and the weak, and not to pressure the little ones so they budge to create pseudo harmony," Agus said.

The church said there was a serious threat against pluralism in Yogyakarta and that it would monitor the investigation into the case.

Meanwhile, Unity in Diversity Alliance coordinator Agnes Dwi Rusjiati called on the government to do more to fight the rise of intolerance, which has started to influence the grass roots.

"I believe the government is turning a blind eye to the fact that many acts of intolerance are happening," she said.

She argued that the incident in Purbayan was the result of a society that had become increasingly intolerant. It is not enough for the community to recognize a religion, it is also required to respect the rituals and traditions of the said religion, she said. "The cross is a religious symbol that should be respected."

Yogyakarta deputy mayor Heroe Poerwadi said the administration would thoroughly investigate the incident and assured the public that it was committed to upholding the rights of its citizens, particularly in practicing their beliefs.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko from the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) said that desecrating the cross was an act of intolerance.

"The cross is the symbol of Catholicism, when it gets cut off then the sense of identity of the related person is disturbed too," he said on Wednesday.

He said he hoped the local government would be an impartial party that could create a forum where all related parties could sit together to get to the root of the problem to prevent it from spiralling into a bigger problem.

"If there is indeed a scenario where this has been planned, then this is a sign that intolerance has become a serious problem in Yogyakarta," he said.

"Yogyakarta is a city of students, culture and tolerance, so the citizens should be progressive in thinking, cultured, and use their rationality clearly."

In Jakarta, the Home Ministry said it was looking into the incident. It called on the local administration to immediately address the problem if there was evidence that there was a violation against freedom of religion in Purbayan. (spl)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/12/19/catholic-church-warns-against-rising-intolerance-in-yogyakarta---.html.

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