Jakarta. International and local support for imprisoned Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has reached a fever pitch as demonstrators across the archipelago and beyond continue to march in solidarity with the ethnic Chinese and Christian leader.
Ahok, who was been battling blasphemy charges since making light-hearted comments against using Koranic verses for political gain in November last year, was found guilty by the North Jakarta District Court on Tuesday (09/05) and sentenced to two years in prison.
In Manado, North Sulawesi, local residents marched in an event dubbed the "1,000 Candles From Manado for Ahok" in the city's center on Wednesday evening.
"Tonight, the people of North Sulawesi declare their solidarity with Ahok and mourn the death of justice in this country," North Sulawesi Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) member Meiva Salindeho Lintang said.
"We feel what Ahok feels."
Reverend David Tulaar, a well-known religious leader in Manado, also deplored the recent verdict against Ahok.
"We demand that the North Jakarta District Court immediately release Ahok from prison," David said.
Both Meiva and David affirmed that the state must not give in to pressure from hardline religious groups, saying that the court should have weighed the case against Ahok on its merits alone.
Meanwhile, local activist Jull Takaliuang has called on all elements of society to fight against discriminatory and unjust acts.
"Although we may differ in our religious beliefs, we are part of one nation, Indonesia, which cherishes the values enshrined in the official slogan of 'Unity in Diversity.' Discrimination must be ended," Jull said.
Papuan Support for Ahok
Hundreds of miles away, in Jayapura, Papua, dozens of residents also gathered on Wednesday to demand Ahok's release.
The spontaneous act started at 6 p.m. local time, as red and white candles – in a nod to the official colors of Indonesia's flag – marked the city’s Imbi Park.
Jayapura residents believe that Ahok is a just and notable figure, especially in taking a hard stance against corruption.
"We Papuans have a pure conscience towards the nation, and Ahok is certainly a victim," Papuan Christian Congregation Forum secretary Reverend Jimmy Koirewaoa told reporters.
Jimmy also called on the government and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to work to prevent future discriminatory acts across the archipelago.
Indonesian Communities in Foreign Countries Stand in Solidarity
Various acts of support also emanated from Indonesian communities abroad, including in Perth, Australia; Toronto, Canada; and West Covina, California.
Mass gatherings and candlelit vigils are planned for May 13 in West Covina and Perth, while Ahok supporters are expected to march on May 12 in Toronto.