Indonesia 'Most Tolerant Country in the World': Religious Minister

By Arientha Primanita 24 May 2012

Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali on Wednesday refuted claims that the Indonesian government had a poor record protecting minorities, calling Indonesia “the most tolerant country in the world.”

Suryadharma was responding critically to a plan by some rights groups to report the Indonesian government to the United Nations’ rights council for its failure to protect minority rights.

“We treat equally the minority and the majority,” the minister said in Jakarta. “Indonesia’s religious harmony is the best in the world.”

Suryadharma said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Vice President Boediono and himself always attended commemorations for Indonesian holidays, no matter which of the country’s six official religions they belonged to.

“The president, the vice president and the religious minister are Muslims, but we attend celebrations of Christmas and the Hindu, Buddhism and Confucianism holidays,” he said.

He accused the rights groups of trying to taint the country’s image with their reported plan to bring cases of abuse against religious minorities to the upcoming UN Human Rights Council meeting, set for May 23-25 in Geneva.

“I cannot understand why an Indonesian organization would give bad information about our country when the information is probably wrong,” said Suryadharma, who chairs the United Development Party (PPP). “Don’t discredit and politicize religions.”

The Indonesian government has received an upsurge of criticism during the past few years for its failures to protect the rights of some religious minority groups, most notably members of the Ahmadiya faith, a minority Muslim sect, and the several church disputes.

Earlier this week, in a New York Times op-ed entitled “Indonesia is No Model for Muslim Democracy,” Indonesian journalist Andreas Harsono wrote, “The rights of religious and ethnic minorities are routinely trampled” in Indonesia, and called on the president to stop Islamic militants from committing crimes against them.