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Protests Over ‘Religious Tolerance’ Award for Indonesian President

Some Indonesians think their president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or SBY, does not deserve the World Statesman Award given to him by the US-based interfaith group Appeal of Conscience Foundation in New York on May 30, 2013.

When the award was announced, many people immediately pointed out that SBY has done little to address the growing religious intolerance and religious violence in the most populous Muslim country in the world. Indeed, attacks against minority religious groups have risen in the country in recent years.

Imam Shofwan, a Jakarta resident, initiated a petition on Change.org:

Nama saya Imam, seorang Muslim dari keluarga Nahdlatul Ulama. […]Sebagai Muslim dan warga Indonesia, saya malu dengan banyaknya kekerasan atas nama agama di bawah pemerintahan saat ini. Kelompok ekstrim dibiarkan membunuh warga Syiah dan warga Ahmadiyah. Di beberapa daerah mayoritas Kristen di Indonesia, mulai ada masjid yang dipersulit pembangunannya. Pemerintahan lokal menghambat pembangunan gereja-gereja Kristen, termasuk HKBP Filadelfia dan GKI Yasmin, dekat Jakarta. […]Saya minta pada ACF untuk menunda penghargaan tersebut sampai SBY bisa memperbaiki kinerjanya melindungi minoritas di Indonesia.

My name is Imam, I'm a Muslim from Nadhlatul Ulama family. [...] As a Muslim and Indonesian citizen, I'm embarrassed by the numerous cases of religious violence under the current government. The extreme groups are allowed to kill the Shiah and Ahmadiyyah followers. In several Christian majority areas, building mosques is becoming difficult. The local authorities restricted the development of Christian churches, including HKBP Filadelfia and GKI Yasmin near Jakarta. [...] I ask ACF to postpone the award until SBY can improve his performance to protect the minorities in Indonesia.

His petition received support from a Catholic priest, Fr. Frans Magnis Suseno:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF),[...] Do you not know that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his up to now 8 1/2 years in office has not a single time said something to the Indonesian people, that they should respect their minorities? That he has shamefully avoided responsibility regarding growing violence towards Achmadiyah and Shia people? Hundreds of their people have under Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's presidentship been driven out of their houses, they still live miserably in places like sports halls…

A few days before the awarding ceremony, victims of religious violence gathered in front of the State Palace in Jakarta to present President Susilo with the “Statements Award”.

the Statements Award presented by victims of religious violence. Photo courtesy of GKI Yasmin, used with permission.

The Statements Award presented by victims of religious violence. Photo courtesy of GKI Yasmin, used with permission.

Interfaith protesters presented the Statements Award to the President. Photo courtesy of GKI Yasmin, used with permission.

Meanwhile, Indonesian migrants in New York organized a sit-in protest in front of the hotel where the award event takes place.

Indonesians in New York protesting the Appeal for Conscience Foundation award.

Indonesians in New York protesting the award given to SBY. Photo by @Fitrimohan, used with permission.

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Spontaneous protest by Indonesians in New York. Photo by @Fitrimohan, used with permission.

Abdul Muchtar claimed he was bribed to express support for the award:

menjijikkan!
saya dihubungi agar mau mendukung pemberian award buat SBY di NY.
Saya diberikan uang US$ 100,- plus dijemput dan diantar pulang pergi, serta disuapin dengan lunch dan dinner.
ternyata teman2 saya lainnya di NY, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Virginia, DC, dan Maryland juga telah dihubungi dengan iming2 yang sama.
mau muntah saya, sangat menjijikan

Disgusting. I was contacted to support the award for SBY in NY.
I'd be given US$100 plus return transport, lunch and dinner.
Apparently my friends in NY, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Virginia, DC, and Maryland have been contacted, offered the same perks. Makes me nauseous, very disgusting.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C, issued a statement to deny the claim in an article published by the Pedoman news website about the supposed recruitment of supporters made by the embassy:

KBRI menegaskan bahwa berita seperti yang disampaikan di www.pedomannews.com TIDAK BENAR SAMA SEKALI. KBRI Washington, D.C., dan seluruh KJRI di AS serta seluruh staf tidak pernah memberikan iming-iming atau menjanjikan uang atau bentuk janji-janji lainnya kepada warga Indonesia untuk hadir dan mendukung pemberian penganugerahan ‘World Statesman Award’ kepada Presiden Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono oleh the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF) tanggal 30 Mei 2013.

[…]

karena faktanya justru sebaliknya: kemarin pihak kami mendapat laporan dari sejumlah sumber yang dipercaya bahwa ada orang Indonesia menelpon orang-orang diaspora Indonesia di AS dan membujuk mereka untuk ikut mendemo Presiden SBY di New York dengan bayaran $100. Mereka tersinggung dengan tawaran tersebut dan melaporkannya kepada staf KBRI.

The Indonesian Embassy (KBRI) wish to state that the news quoted by www.pedomannews.com was completely untrue. The Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C., its Consul General in the USA, and the staff have never promised monetary reward or other promises to Indonesian citizens to attend and support the granting of ‘World Statesman Award’ to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF) on 30 May 2013.

[…]

The fact is the opposite: Yesterday, we received reports from several trustworthy sources that there was an Indonesian calling Indonesian diaspora in the USA and luring them with $100 to join a protest against the President in New York. People were offended and reported this to the Embassy.

On his post, Daniel HT said:

Di laman resmi Appeal of Conscience Foundation ini tertulis filosofinya sebagai berikut: freedom, democracy and human rights are basic principles.

Sedangkan slogannya adalah: “A crime committed in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion.” Suatu kejahatan yang dilakukan atas nama agama adalah kejahatan terbesar terhadap agama.

Dari filosofi dan slogan yayasan ini saja, SBY sudah tidak memenuhi kriterianya.

In the Appeal of Conscience Foundation official web page, it is said that their philosophies are as follow: freedom, democracy and human rights are basic principles.

While its slogan is: “A crime committed in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion.” Based on their philosophy and slogan, SBY has already failed to meet the criteria to deserve the award.

On Twitter, reactions vary:

@Abdan_dj: Selamat ut Bpk. Presiden @SBYudhoyono atas penghargaan World Statesman Award dari organisasi nirlaba Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF).

@Abdan_dj: Congratulations to Mr. President @SBYudhoyono on World Statesman Award from non- profit organization Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF).

‏@adhe_cj: Silakan ambil, tpi itu sbnrnya adlh tantangan!!RT @tempodotco: SBY Dapat World Statesman Award, Beri 4 Janji http://bit.ly/17Ctydb

‏@adhe_cj: Go ahead and take it but frankly it's a challenge.

‏@dinopattidjalal: Pemenang Nobel Daw Ang San SuuKyi puji kemajuan demokrasi Indonesia yg inspiratif+dukung pemberian World Statesman Award kpd Presiden SBY

‏@dinopattidjalal: Nobel Prize winner Daw Ang San SuuKyi praised Indonesia's democratic progress as inspiring and supported World Statesman Award to President SBY.

‏@DukungMahfudMD: Pemberian World Statesman Award kepada SBY tidak sesuai dengan fakta lapangan. Jika berintegritas, dia akan malu untuk nerima.

‏@DukungMahfudMD: Bestowing World Statesman Award to SBY is different to the facts in the field. If he's a man of integrity, he'll be ashamed to accept.

@daanandraan: SBY dapet penghargaan “kebebasan beragama” dr ACF (Appeal of Conscience Foundation) ?? I'am Atheist now.

@daanandraan: SBY got an award for “religious freedom” from ACF (Appeal of Conscience Foundation)? I'm an atheist now.

‏@jery_tbn: Selamat Pak @SBYudhoyono mendapat penghargaan World Statesman Award terhadap negara yg kehidupan toleransi beragamanya masih dipertanyakan..

‏@jery_tbn: Congratulations Mr. @SBYudhoyono on the World Statesman Award for the country with questionable religious tolerance.

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