Indonesian president urges calm after clashes over Aceh church
Indonesian President Joko Widodo appealed for calm Wednesday after one person was killed in violence that followed the burning of a church in Aceh, the country’s most devoutly Muslim province, dpa reports.
Hundreds of people set fire to a church in Aceh Singkil district Tuesday, but the crowd was confronted by another group when they tried to attack a second church, police said.
One person was killed after being shot in the ensuing clashes, national police chief Badrodin Haiti said.
“Violence in the name of anything, especially religion, will only damage pluralism,” Joko said, in a statement on the cabinet website.
He ordered authorities “to take prompt action to stop violence, guarantee the safety of every citizen and establish peace and religious harmony.”
The police chief said the attack followed Muslim residents’ complaints about the presence of churches that they said lacked proper permits as places of worship.
Local authorities promised to close the churches but locals were unhappy with negotiations over the issue, he said.
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that has been allowed to apply Islamic law as part of attempts by the central government to check moves for independence.
A peace agreement between Jakarta and the Free Aceh Movement in 2005 ended a long-running separatist insurgency that claimed more than 15,000 lives, mostly civilians.
In the meantime, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia is not a Muslim country and any efforts to turn it into one must be resisted, Jakarta Globe reports.
Accepting the Sukarno Prize for statesmanship and championing humanity and democracy from Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, he said Sukarno, Indonesia’s founding president, had explicitly declared that Indonesia was a secular country and this basic tenet of the republic must be upheld.
“We have to protect this. My fear is that there are changes, pushes and thinking that tend toward turning this country into a non-secular one. Secularity is final, and this is an important legacy that we have inherited from Sukarno and the other founders of this republic,” Yudhoyono said at the Sukarno Center in Gianyar in Bali.
“I don’t just respect what was done by this great leader, but also how his thoughts are still relevant in answering the questions we continue to face today,” he said.