Jakarta. The government should flex its muscles to protect the rights of all Indonesian citizens to conduct religious ceremonies according to their faith, a legal expert said on Thursday, Dec. 8.
Agustinus Pohan, a criminal expert from Parahyangan University, claimed the shutdown of a Christmas celebration in Bandung by a Muslim group has added to a long list of cases where law enforcers have failed to protect minority groups.
The police, according to Agustinus, should hunt the thugs behind the incident.
"When the Christmas celebration in Bandung was forcibly shut down, the police did not do anything to protect the congregation. This cannot go on, the government should protect the rights of every citizen to practice his or her religion," Pohan said.
According to Pohan, the Defenders of Ahlus Sunnah (PAS) — the Muslim group that forced the Christmas service at the Sabuga convention center in Bandung to be shut down — had no right to disrupt the event.
Muslim communities have also spoken out against PAS. Most of them said they had no problem with church services at the Sabuga.
The organizer of the Christmas service has already dismissed PAS’ claim that they had not secured the necessary permit to hold the event, saying they already received a letter from the police confirming the service could go ahead.
"The police ceded to PAS' demand to stop the service, because they said they did not want to cause more trouble. This is absolutely the wrong move," Pohan said. "I went to the Sabuga and there weren't actually that many people demonstrating against the event, but the police quickly gave in to their demand."
According to Indonesian law, public facilities can be used for religious events as long as organizers acquire the necessary permits from the authorities.
Just four days before the incident in Bandung, a mass prayer-cum-rally in Central Jakarta saw hundreds of thousands of Muslims taking part in a Friday prayer at the National Monument and on the streets around it.