Religion-related conflicts on the rise: Activists

Jakarta, Indonesia - Religion-related conflicts and violence against minority groups are on the rise, data from the Setara Institute shows.

As of July this year, at least 99 cases of violence and conflicts had been reported, an apparent surge from 94 cases reported in the whole of 2010.

“We have to acknowledge that conflicts partly fueled by religious diversity are on the rise,” Catholic priest Benny Susetyo, chairman of the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) inter-faith dialogue division, told a discussion on the role of media in dealing with issues of diversity, in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Benny, however, attributed most of the conflicts to the failure of law enforcers to do their jobs, rather than inter-religious tensions.

Meanwhile, human rights activist Bonar Tigor Naipospos from Setara Institute said that key agencies, such as the media, the police and the ministries, needed to be bold in handling such religion-related conflicts and violence.

“The Religious Affairs Ministry, for instance, should create a firm strategy to end the conflicts; the police should create a firm standard for operational procedures to stop violence; the media should produce balanced and accurate reports,” Bonar said.

Earlier this year, hundreds of hardliners attacked 20 Ahmadis in Cikeusik, Banten. Three Ahmadis were killed and several others were injured in the incident. The case ended with light sentences handed down to 13 of the attackers, and a heavier sentence handed down to an Ahmadi leader, by the Serang District Court.

Meanwhile, in Bogor, West Java, churchgoers of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) were forced to hold mass in the middle of the street in March after the Bogor administration sealed off their church.