Saturday, February 11, 2017

Archbishop of Jakarta: vote against extremism and violence tensions rise between the leaders and supporters of opposing parties ahead of local elections on 15 February, the Archbishop of Jakarta issued a pastoral letter in which he reiterated the Church’s neutrality and non-partisanship and its support for dignity and human values.
In the letter, instead of siding with any candidate in particular, Mgr Ignatius Suharyo reminded Catholics of their duty – regardless of political alignment – to respect the dignity and value of human life.

The Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI), which also highlights the dignity of voting and respect for the country’s founding principles, calls for voting in a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere at a time of political tensions.

Voting is set to take place not only the capital, Jakarta, but also in other provinces and regencies across Indonesia. The pastoral letter follows recent political clashes that have gone beyond normal political dialectics.

Tensions have increased across the country, fuelled by extremist groups and radical movements that exploit religion for political reasons, such as the recent blasphemy case involving radical groups against the Christian governor of Jakarta.

Ahead of the local vote, Mgr Suharyo decided to address the faithful in person, making some specific requests.

Responding to the appeal by Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his administration, the Archdiocese of Jakarta "invites everyone to remain calm" and "support" the central government in ensuring a regular electoral process.

Voting, the prelate notes, is one of the most important moments in the life of a citizen, who is called to exercise his or her "civic rights" and choose "the best candidate". People must exercise this right "in a fair and responsible" way, he added.

In such a situation, some guidelines are needed to remind people to vote for those who "defend the spirit of unity in diversity", which is one of the founding values ​​of the country.

"The spirit of unity in diversity is crucial in the context of defending Pancasila, the founding principles of the state, and the union of the country’s various groups," the archbishop said.

Finally, for Mgr Suharyo, churches are not places to campaign in favour of this or that candidate.

In recent weeks, extremist groups and radical movements have organised demonstrations, ostensibly to defend Islam. In reality, they have been used to attack Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and an ethnic Chinese, on political and legal grounds.

Such protests can be seen in a wider context in which some want to destabilise the country by throwing it into chaos in order to undermine President Widodo.

Analysts and experts point out that although protests are directed at the governor accused of blasphemy, in fact the real target is the president.

Widodo does not belong to the "old regime" that ruled the country for decades. Instead, since the early days of his mandate he has been involved in a campaign against corruption, one of Indonesia’s endemic ills, and a major factor in its decade-long economic stagnation.

For this reason, the archbishop of Jakarta writes that local elections are not only of local significance, but must breathe new life into the principles of the State and the fight against corruption and malfeasance, and prevent the return to power of those who thrived in dishonesty and graft.

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