Loading
Religious liberty threats pose 'real danger' in Indonesia, Burma
By Adelaide Mena
Catholics take part in a candle-lit procession at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Yangon, Myanmar. Credit: Bessie and Kyle via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
Catholics take part in a candle-lit procession at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Yangon, Myanmar. Credit: Bessie and Kyle via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

.- The persecution of religious minorities in both Indonesia and Burma pose dangers not only to the two countries, but to the region and the world, says a human rights advocate who specializes in the area.

Speaking Sept. 12 on “Radical Islamism in Indonesia and Militant Buddhism in Burma,” a talk sponsored by the Hudson Institute, Benedict Rogers said that “there is a real danger of these situations feeding off each other.”

He added that religious freedom threats in the region pose “serious consequences for the two countries and beyond.”

Rogers is the East Asia team leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a London-based group that investigates religious freedom around the world.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, has “been held up for a long time as a model” of religious pluralism and democracy, especially in Muslim world, he explained. However, “that pluralism is increasingly under threat from radical extremism and religious intolerance.”

Indonesia's population is around 87 percent Muslim, and most Indonesian Muslims are Sunni. However, there are some Shia Muslims, as well as Ahmadis – a heterodox Muslim movement founded in the 19th century.

Rogers said that “a growing number of churches” and Ahmadiyya mosques “are being forced to close” because of local ordinances restricting religious practice in public places and the licensing of places of  worship set in place by city governments, in contradiction to the nation's constitution.

Self-proclaimed atheists have also been jailed for public statements of non-belief. In addition, a vigilante group known as the Islamic Defenders Front stages protests and uses violence against Christian, Ahmadiyya, and Shia groups and congregations.

One Ahmadi mosque that was forced to close was the subject of such violence and discrimination. The imam and several members, Rogers said, stayed in their condemned mosque to keep it from being torn down by local government officials and Islamic Defenders Front protestors.

“We want the international community to know what has happened here,” the imam told Rogers. “Let the outside world know that we are not safe anymore. We are not free to believe what we want to believe.”

Rogers explained that while such actions are against the country's laws, parts of the Indonesian government are “complicit in what we are seeing.”

He pointed specifically to the actions of the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose administration has been reticent to prosecute religious discrimination and other government officials.

Some government officials, such as the Minister for Religious Affairs, have “blamed the incidence of violence on the Christians and the Ahmadis,” Rogers said.

Burma – also known as Myanmar – also faces threats to religious freedom. In the country, which is nearly 90 percent Buddhist, both Muslims and Christians have reported suffering persecution.

Rogers noted the rise of “militant Buddhism” there, primarily against Muslims, particularly the Rohingya, an ethnic group who live in Rakhine state. The Rohingya have long been persecuted by the country's Buddhist majority, and in 2012, riots in Rakhine displaced some 125,000 Rohingya.

In addition, the state has engaged in the targeting of individuals in Kachin state, which is home to an ethnic group whose identity is “tied up” with Christianity, he said. Within the territory, Kachin people have been held prisoner and forced to participate in sexual acts with other prisoners.

Rogers said he feared that such persecution of Muslims and Christians in Burma may “call the attention of radical Islamist groups” to use violence against their Buddhist persecutors. He warned that the destabilization of Burma, and the upsetting of the tradition of religious tolerance in Indonesia, may set an unfortunate example for other nations in the region.

However, there is still hope, Rogers noted. In Burma, some Buddhists are beginning to speak out against the persecution, joining Christian and Muslim voices in opposition to the discrimination.

Rogers described meeting a former Islamic Defenders Front fighter, who became an advocate for religious liberty after speaking to his Ahmadi neighbors.

He also added that there is some public support for pluralism and solidarity with the persecuted in the country, displays of which have become more common as the country's 2014 national elections approach.

Still, “we just need more of them to counter this climate of hatred,” he emphasized.

Tags: Religious liberty, Southeast Asia


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
A Look at India from Rome
3D Church mapping
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Dedicating art to San Juan de la Cruz
A state without territory elects new government
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Sep
2

Liturgical Calendar

September 2, 2014

Tuesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 4:31-37

Gospel
Date
09/02/14
09/01/14
08/31/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: 1 Cor 2:10B-16
Gospel:: Lk 4:31-37

Saint of the Day

Martyrs of September »

Saint
Date
08/31/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 4:31-37

Homily
Date
09/02/14
09/01/14
08/31/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: