Sunday, May 26, 2013

View from Jakarta: World Statements Against Religious Violence

SBY Is No Statesman!
Peaceful Picket

Thursday, May 30, 2013, 5:30-7:30pm
The Pierre Hotel, 2 E 61st St., New York City

Oppose the World Statesman Award to President Yudhoyono 
from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation

Bring your own signs and banners highlighting the ongoing human rights issues in Indonesia, including attacks on religious freedom, lack of justice for past human rights violations, and ongoing rights abuses in West Papua and elsewhere.

(Should the Appeal of Conscience Foundation withdraw the award,
we will hold a celebration outside the hotel.)

Download, print and distribute flyer promoting demonstration (PDF)

contact ETAN for more information or to help

by Rev. Elice Higginbotham, 

Member, Executive Committee, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

JAKARTA, May 26 – The President was absent from the presentation ceremony for his award.

So the crowd of Christians, Shia and Amhadiyya Muslims, followers of indigenous religions, women’s rights advocates,and other victims of violence against religious and other minorities carried the “World Statements Against Religious Violence” Award through the streets of Jakarta’s National Palace District and presented it at the palace gate.

SBY was not really expected at a Christian worship service, particularly not the semi-weekly presence of the congregations and friends of the GKI Yasmin and the HKPB Fildelfia congregations who conduct an open-air, right-under-his-nose service to remind him, and the surrounding city, that they are not permitted to worship on their own property because the state refuses to enforce their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Today’s service, however, was an expanded, multi-faith event, intended to highlight widespread opposition to/offense at the “World Statesman Award” from the New York-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation, slated for presentation on May 30.  We arrived a little early to find a gathering crowd carrying both handmade signs and organizational banners, including demonstrators and speakers from beyond Jakarta, some from as far away as Aceh and Kupang.  As the service began, two women, one wearing a sash saying “No Award to SBY,” lay down at the front of the crowd to represent victims killed in religious violence.

(For the first time in my experience in Indonesia, I was questioned by police.  A rather quick and clever woman danced over to me, waving her cellphone camera, and asked what Indonesians occasionally do when encountering a foreigner in an interesting public spot – “Photo?  Take my photo with you?”  She handed her  camera to someone else in the crowd and put her arm around me, beaming into the sunshine. Then… she began asking me who I was, why I was there, how I found out about the event.  Simply on the basis of her appearance, I unconsciously assumed she was part of the demo.  However, few minutes later, I saw her chatting with uniformed police on the sidelines of the demonstration area; she caught my eye, called me over, and asked me to reiterate my information, which I realized she was writing down.  I stopped and asked, “Excuse me, may I ask who wants to know?”  Smiling  her friendly smile, she said, “I’m a policewoman.”  A journalist friend commented later that I’d probably been noted as the first obvious foreigner on the scene.)

Aside from the presence of more cameras and a more diverse congregation (and the two “dead” women), the service was its usual, thoughtfully-prepared fairly ordinary Christian Sunday worship, distinguished only by the multiplicity of posters and signs calling for implementation of religious rights and the concluding enthusiastic unison rendition of the National Anthem.  As the worship concluded,  however, it was clear that things weren’t over.

A six-foot-high, black-draped object, looking like a tall black ghost, was rolled out.  Representatives of the various groups recently victimized by religious violence took their places at the front.  And, instead of the “World Statesman” Award – the “World Statements Against Religious Violence” Award was unveiled: a gold foil-covered tower, topped by the Indonesian symbols of Garuda and Pancasila, and decorated with photo after photo of incidents of religious violence in Indonesia… burning churches… bruised bodies… disrupted worship services… demonstrations… funerals….

Representatives of victimized groups each made their statements, witnessing to personal and community suffering.  Concluding prayer was offered.

Then the monument was lifted up onto shoulders and carried toward the street.  Police officers (colleagues of the woman who questioned me) obligingly stopped traffic as the crowd crossed, SBY’s award moving ahead of us, leading us toward the entrance to the National Palace.  The crowd sang patriotic songs.

We were greeted by an unsurprisingly closed and well-guarded gate.  A pastor made a statement about the award and about our presence, and then turned to the security guards on the other side of the gate.  A period of negotiation ensued, resulting in what appeared to be an agreement  to open the gate just enough to allow the award to the slipped through, with a note of explanation to the President.  Someone bent a back to offer a flat surface, someone else wrote the note, which was handed to a guard, and the golden tower was passed through the gate and onto the Palace grounds.

Cameras clicked, more patriotic choruses were sung as the “World Statements Against Religious Violence” Award was hoisted onto the shoulders of Palace security personnel, carried along the path until it disappeared around a corner, looking for all the world as if borne by a guard of honor.

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