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Indonesia: Online rage over attack on church leaders

Reverend Luspida Simanjuntak and Sintua (church elder in Batak language) Asia Lumban Toruan from the Ciketing Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) Church in Indonesia were stabbed on Sunday morning. Reverend Simanjuntak was hit on her left temple. Sintua Toruan, on the other hand, had to undergo an operation to close a 3cm long incision on his liver, a result from the stabbing. Latest report said that the surgeon managed to stop the bleeding and Sintua Toruan condition is already stabilizing.

The HKBP Ciketing church was once banned by the authorities for not having the proper permit. The ban was revoked after the church complied with some of the demands of the state. However, it was ordered closed again a couple of days after being reopened when the local government declared that the church is unwanted by the local community. Founded in 1990, the Ciketing HKBP Church has 1,500 members.

The Jakarta Cathedral viewed from Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. Flickr photo by TeeJe used under Creative Commons

A group of hardliners calling themselves Mustika Jaya Sub-district Moslem Forum (FUI), has attacked the church several times in the past.

At Pemuda Indonesia (Indonesian Youth), blogger Don Sisco said that the right to worship of the church has been castrated anew by the law enforcers. He also reacted to the commitment of the Indonesian president that the attacks on places of worship will be stopped.

Presiden Yudhoyono menegaskan tak ada ruang bagi para pelaku tindak kekerasan di Indonesia. Tindak kekerasan atas dasar dan alasan apa pun, lanjutnya, tidak dapat ditoleransi. Pelaku pun mesti dipastikan mendapat sanksi sesuai peraturan dan perundang-undangan berlaku. Presiden memerintahkan, polisi mampu memastikan kejadian serupa tak terulang.

Melihat sikap SBY ini, kita ingin rasanya tertawa terbahak-bahak dan merasa sangat iba, Mengapa begitu bodoh Presiden kita. Apakah pelajaran Sekolah Dasar saja Presiden kita tidak tamat ? Karena pada SD pernah diajarkan lebih baik mencegah dari pada mengobati, Sedia payung sebelum hujan. Akan tetapi Presiden kita yang satu ini Sakit dulu baru diobati, kehujanan dulu baru beli payung.

President Yudhoyono said that there's no room for the culprit of violence in Indonesia. He said that violence under any circumstances will not be tolerated and culprits will be prosecuted and punished according to the law. The president also ordered the national police to ensure that the incident will never happen again.

Hearing his statements made us laugh, and we felt sorry for him. How silly our president is. Has he forgotten that “prevention is better than cure, or “prepare your umbrella before it rains”?  What our president is doing is “curing the ill” and “putting up the umbrella once we're soaking wet”.

Don Sisco also expressed his concern about President Yudhoyono's slow reaction.

Ataukah hal ini memang keingingan SBY ? agar dia seolah-olah menjadi pahlawan kebebasan beragama . Paling tidak metode ini masuk kategori Politik Pencitraan

Does SBY (Author's note: President Yudhoyono's popular nickname) wanted this to happen? So he can emerge as the hero of religious freedom? Or is he using this method to rebrand his politics?

On Being Me on Mine, a blogger known only by his nickname, Kupretist, said that the incident happened because the community isn't accustomed with pluralism. He wondered why some of the Indonesia's Muslim majority should prevent the minorities to worship.

Menurut pemerintah penyerangan tersebut adalah kriminal murni dan bukan konflik agama, akan tetapi bagaimana jika terjadinya penyerangan tersebut adalah dikarenakan motif atau tendensi agama.

[…] Sebagai umat Islam seharusnya mengerti tentang prinsip-prinsip pluralisme dan toleransi yang dicanangkan dalam al-Qur'an bahwa “Laa ikraha fi al-diin.” yakni tidak ada paksaan dalam beragama.

The government ruled the attack as criminality and not as an interfaith feud; but what if the attack was based on interfaith (feud)?

[…] As Muslims, we should understand that the Holy Koran cited the principles of pluralism and tolerance “Laa ikraha fi al-diin”, which means that we can't force faith (to someone).

Other believers should be free to worship, he added:

Mungkin saya takkan terburu-buru mengatakan bahwa oknum yang menusuk pendeta itu adalah orang Islam, akan tetapi saya hanya mengomentari kenapa kita orang Islam begitu susahnya menerima perbedaan di tengah masyarakat, begitu sulitnya berinteraksi dengan orang non-muslim. Apakah hanya karena secara prosedur tidak mendapatkan izin dari masyarakat yang mayoritas beragama Islam lantas kita harus menggempur segolongan umat yang minoritas tersebut.

I don't want to rush into conclusion and say that the reverend's stabber was a Muslim, however I just wonder why we Muslims find it so difficult to accept the differences in our community; why is it so difficult to interact with the non-Muslims? Why should we prevent the minority believers (to worship) just because their place of worship lacks a building permit?

The blogger said that he agrees with Reverend Luspida Simanjuntak who said that “there's no justice for the minorities”. He also said that the government may be running after the crime suspects but it is ignoring the root of the problem:

Sekarang ketika terjadi penusukan itu apa bisa diselesaikan hanya dengan mencari pelaku penusukan dan mengatakan bahwa hal tersebut adalah kriminal murni, sementara akar persoalan tidak bisa diselesaikan, di mana sebagai mayoritas umat beragama di Indonesia, umat Muslim seharusnya lebih bisa menerima perbedaan di tengah masyarakat dan berinteraksi dengan umat agama lain dengan sikap toleran dan tenggang rasa. Mereka umat non-muslim meskipun sedikit jumlahnya juga membutuhkan tempat ibadah dan kebebasan untuk menjalankan ibadah mereka sebagaimana umat Islam bebas menjalankan ibadahnya.

Can the problem be resolved by hunting down the culprit and claim that the incident was nothing but criminality, while the roots of the problem are being left out? The Indonesian majority believers, the Muslims, should accept the differences among the people and interact more with others from different religions with tolerance and sensitivity (towards others). The non-Muslims also need places of worships and freedom to carry out their religious duties, just like how us, the Muslims, are free to perform ours.

The role of mainstream media

Facebookers Fitri Bintang Timur and Suluh Legowo discussed the incident and how the mainstream media reported it:

Suluh Legowo: gw sendiri ga yakin itu ‘tindak kekerasan terhadap kebebasan beragama'…kalo misalnya yang ditusuk ustadz, paling kalimat pertama itu ilang…i guess sensationalist journalism always prevails since they can just give a corrective statement later on if it turns out wrong…

bukannya gw ‘mengamini’ tindakan kekerasan begitu, cuma pemberitaan yang seperti itu ‘kan cuma mancing emosi orang aja demi popularitas sebuah artikel…
oke lah diberitain, cuma jangan pake embel2 ‘kebebasan beragama’ kalo tindakan perorangan gitu…pelakunya juga ga dikenal, apalagi alasan perbuatannya apa…

don't ASSUME things…
ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and not ME…

I'm not sure that it was an act of “violence against religious freedom”.. For example, if the victim was a cleric, the first word (of the title) will surely disappear. I guess sensationalist journalism always prevails since they can just give a corrective statement later on if it turns out wrong…
Not that I okayed the attack, it's just such report would only enrage people for the sake of the article's popularity.
It's okay to report this of course, but don't put ”religious freedom” when it's obviously an act of a person. We don't know who did it, and for what reason.
don't ASSUME things…
ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and not ME…

Fitri Bintang Timur emang sih buat bikin statement butuh penyidikan lebih lanjut. […] orang yang secara tidak sensitif melihat tidak akan menyadari ini adalah upaya peningkatan intensitas konflik seperti yg dilakukan di poso circa 1998-9. dan ini menarik karena kemarin SBY baru komentar keras ttg pembakaran Al Quran pada pastor Jones, jadi many eyes melihat tindakan pak Beye mau ngapain.

It's true that before making any statement, one need to investigate thoroughly. […] The least sensitive people won't be aware that this could be a way to intensify conflict, like the one that happened in Poso circa 1998-99. And it's particularly interesting because recently SBY condemned pastor Terry Jones’ plan to burn the Al Quran, so all eyes are on him (the president).

Suluh Legowo also highlighted the importance of adhering to journalism ethics and standards. He further elaborates:

there's no point massa memahami ada usaha peningkatan konflik kalo sembari dipicu emosinya…
masalahnya di sini adalah kompas itu termasuk ‘sumber terpercaya’ di indo…ga perlu lah pake kalimat pembuka model tabloid lampu merah begitu…masih banyak penduduk yang masih blom bisa mikir beyond what's being told and taking things for granted…

There's no point of educating the public about conflict's provocation by triggering the public's agitation.
Kompas is the most reliable source in Indonesia, they should reject tabloid-like headlines. There are still plenty of people who are unable to think beyond what they're being told and (those) taking things for granted.

Meanwhile, referring to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a group of hardliners accused of taking part in the incident in lieu of their past attacks against the congregation, Suluh said:

fpi ormas islam?
HA-HA-HA-HA-HA…
mereka mah orman…organisasi preman…memiliki cara baru memahami islam yaitu dengan menggunakan DENGKUL…

FPI, a Muslim civil organization?
They're more of a thug organization, forcing their way to understand Islam, by using their knee. (Author's note: “think with a knee” is a popular Indonesian saying which means “brainless idea, thought or plan”).

Blank Profile Pictures

Blackberry and Facebook users blank out their profile pictures to protest interfaith incidents, past and recent, that tarnish Indonesia's reputation as a plural and tolerant country.

Jonathan Jodie: True Story from Kompas.com, verified! Sebagai tanda duka atas kekerasan terhadap kebebasan beragama, mari hitamkan foto contact kita. Pendeta Ditusuk di HKBP Ciketing Bekasi http://m.kompas.com/news/read/data/2010.09.12.1126458

Show our concern on the attack of religious freedom by blanking out our profile picture. Ciketing Bekasi HKBP Church reverend was stabbed.

Indonesian twitterers also expressed their opinions about the recent incident:

bigbon12 : Perlukah para muslim yg trgabung dlm anti-kristen sampai mencelakai seorang Pendeta?Obama bisa mempertahankan sebuah masjid di NYC,tapi SBY gak bisa mencegah robohnya gereja !

Should anti-Christian Muslims harm a reverend? Obama would defend a Mosque in NYC, but President SBY wouldn't prevent a Church from collapsing.

bloody243 RT @La_181: Kok tega yah Nusuk2 pendeta pas lagi ibadah.. :( sebener'nya masyarakat indonesia punya moral nggak sih..?? Sedih banget..

How could anyone stabbed a reverend during Sunday service. Do Indonesians still have a conscience? This is so sad.

taraarisa : Iba ngeliat pendeta #hkbp bekasi yg dipukulin org2. Mau ke gereja aja susah ya, ampe hrs dipukulin dulu

I feel sorry for the HKBP reverend who got beaten up by unknowns. How come it's so difficult to worship in a Church that they have to be beaten first?

Alissa Wahid, daughter of the late former President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), who is known for his pluralistic visions for the country, gave a twitter update about the situation of the victims:

@alissawahid : Dear @dhyudanie .. Sy barusan telp ibu Pendeta Luspida #hkbp dan konfirmasi bhw anggota Majlis Gereja bp.Sihombing semakin baik keadaannya

I just received a call from Reverend Luspida #hkbp who confirmed that Mr. Sihombing is recovering.
largest mosque in Southeast Asia

2 comments

  • Jonathan Jodie

    Masalah agama di Indonesia sebenarnya adalah masalah yang sensitif, karena selain kita memiliki lembaga pemerintah yang menaungi 5 agama yang berbeda sekaligus dan agama mayoritas di negeri inipun tampaknya mempunyai cabang yang banyak, mulai dari aliran terbesar yaitu Muhamadiyah dan Nadhlatul Ulama, sehingga tugas lembaga pemerintah tersebut pun seakan sirna ditelan kekuatan dari agama mayoritas tersebut. Satu hal kelemahan sistem di negara ini karena agama yang minoritas ataupun kaum minoritas tidak dilihat oleh lembaga tersebut. Padahal dalam kasus penusukan HKBP ini adalah buntut dari peristiwa-peristiwa sebelumnya. Pemikiran kalau minoritas adalah minoritas itulah yang membuat para pemeluk agama minoritas tidak bisa bahkan tidak mau berontak untuk bersuara bahwa kami boleh dibilang minoritas tetapi biarkanlah kami memeluk dan melaksanakan ibadah kami ini tidak tersampaikan. Sayang sekali memang karena seperti yang diatur UUD 1945 Pasal 29, bahwa kita bebas kok beribadah, dan memeluk agama kita masing-masing. Tapi bagaimana bisa kita dilirik oleh lembaga pemerintah atau Presiden kalau kita sendiri pun tidak mau bersuara? Bagaimana kita bisa bebas beribadah kalau untuk membuat satu tempat ibadah saja membutuhkan ijin sampai dengan 10 tahun untuk ijin membangunnya? Bagaimana kita bisa memeluk agama kita masing-masing secara bebas kalau kita sendiri aja diteror bahkan dilukai pada saat berangkat untuk menunaikan agama kita?

  • […] Ny andraikitra voalohan'ny sampan'ny mpitandro ny filaminana dia ny hanatevin-daharana ny polisy sy ny fitantanam-panjakana isam-paritra hitandro ny filaminana. Nefa raha mahita ny fihetsika tampoka natao sy araka ny fanaon'ny miaramila, dia misy ny mieritreritra fa noho ny fandrisihana islamista hanenjika ny vondrona sy fiangonana krisitiana ao amina firenena maro silamo an'isa no mahatonga izao toe-javatra izao. Tamin'ny herinandro teo manko dia mpitarika fiangonana kristiana roa no nisy nanatsatok'antsy tany amin'ny fitantanam-pajakan&…. […]

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