Indonesia Minorities Slam President’s Interfaith Award

Indonesian religious minorities on Monday slammed a decision by a US interfaith group to honor President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at a time when attacks against minority faiths are on the increase.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which campaigns against crimes committed in the name of religion, has named Yudhoyono its “World Statesman” of 2013, and he is due to collect the award at a ceremony later this month in New York.

But attacks against minorities in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country have been rising in recent years, and Yudhoyono has been repeatedly criticized for failing to take action.

Minority Muslim groups, such as Ahmadiyah and Shiites, and Christians, have been targeted by Muslim radicals in the Sunni-majority country, with places of worship attacked and in some cases worshippers even killed.

Ahmadiyah cleric Rahmat Rahmadijaya, who has been locked inside a mosque near the capital Jakarta since April with a group of other sect members after it was sealed by hardliners, said he was “disappointed” at the award.

“He only listens to the voice of the majority and allows the discriminatory acts against us to continue,” he told AFP. “If he accepts the award, he must be shameless.”

Ahmadis, unlike mainstream Muslims, do not believe Muhammad was the last prophet.

Palti Panjaitan, a Christian cleric whose congregation on the outskirts of Jakarta has been locked out of its church by Muslim hardliners, accused the president of “turning a blind eye” and failing to act.

“He blows his own trumpet at international conferences to paint a picture that all is well in Indonesia but in reality, that’s not the case,” he told AFP.

But presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah defended the award as a recognition of Yudhoyono’s accomplishments in many areas, including the economy, democracy and human rights.

“The cases of intolerance should not be a yardstick against which to measure Indonesia,” he said.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.