- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2007

Indonesia tolerance

The Indonesian Embassy is trying to polish the image of the country as tolerant after a series of attacks on Christians in 2005.

The embassy last week sponsored a lunch with Philip Widjaja of the Buddhist Council of Indonesia; Abdul Mu’ti, a former chairman of the Muhammadiyah Youth organization; the Rev. Izaak Hendriks, a Presbyterian who teaches at Moluccan Indonesian Christian University in Ambon; the Rev. Ignatius Ismartono of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Indonesia; and Richard Daulay, secretary of the Indonesian Communion of Churches.

Muslims in Indonesia are more tolerant of local customs and less strident than the Islam of the Middle East, Mr. Mu’ti told our correspondent Julia Duin.

“With most of our Muslim scholars, their English is not so good, so their works are only written in Indonesian,” he said. “That is why so little about Indonesian Islam is known.”

Despite that tolerance, several attacks on Christians have occurred in recent years.

In May 2005, a bomb in the Christian town of Tentena in the Sulawesi province killed 22 persons. Four months later, three Christian Sunday school teachers in east Java were sentenced to prison for three years after Muslim children began attending their classes. In October 2005, Muslim assailants beheaded three Christian teenage girls in central Sulawesi. Last month, their killers received sentences of between 14 and 20 years in prison.

Mr. Hendriks was optimistic that things could improve. Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim community at 170 million adherents, followed by 20 million Protestants, 6.5 million Catholics, 5 million Buddhists, 4 million Hindus and 1 million Confucians. Yet, the group that most concerned the delegation members were the 5,500 Mormons in the country, who are busily converting Muslims and Christians.

“The Mormons are causing problems,” Mr. Mu’ti said, “because they’ve been visiting families in their homes.” Proselytism and conversions are frowned upon in Indonesia.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


c President Alan Garcia of Peru, who meets with President Bush.

• Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin of Ethiopia, who meets with officials at the State Department and the National Security Council.

• Federal Chancellor Annemarie Huber-Hotz of Switzerland and Chancellor Robert Hensler of the Swiss state of Geneva. They hold a 1 p.m. press conference at the Swiss Embassy to discuss Switzerland’s experience with voting over the Internet.


• A delegation from the Russian human rights group Memorial: Zarema Mukusheva, filmmaker and producer of the documentary “The Crying Sun”; Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya of Chechen State University; and Shamil Tangiev, director of Memorial’s office in Chechnya. They screen the film and address guests at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.


• Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, who meets with President Bush.

• Margot Wallstrom, vice president of the European Commission, who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

• Gianni de Michelis, former foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Italy, who gives an Italian perspective on the war in Afghanistan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


• Shajeda Dewan, a social worker in London; Salima Ebrahim and Nuzhat Jafri, board members of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women; Amina Rasul-Bernardo of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy; and Reza Eslami Somea of Tehran University. They participate in a seminar at the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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