Jakarta. National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has called for the strengthening of all community forums aimed at maintaining religious harmony across the country, following mob attacks on Buddhist houses of worship in North Sumatra last weekend.
Several monasteries and temples in Tanjung Balai were burned down, but no casualties were reported. Security has since been stepped up.
Officials have subsequently held meetings with local religious and community leaders, mainly through the Interreligious Harmony Forum (FKUB).
"But the problem is that not all of the forums are active," said Tito, who went to Tanjung Balai shortly after last weekend's incident.
The FKUB, which is comprised of local religious leaders, is a consultative forum facilitated by the government and run by communities. Forums have been established in provinces, districts and cities across the country, mainly aimed at maintaining religious harmony.
"In regions where leaders are vigilant, the forums are able to suppress the potential for conflict. But in others, the regional leaders are not concerned with the forums and thus they are weak," the newly appointed National Police chief said.
Last weekend's incident began when hundreds of residents reportedly became enraged by alleged protests from a woman of Chinese descent against calls to prayers and recitals from loudspeakers at a mosque in front of her home.
The situation reportedly deteriorated further after alleged provocation on social media against the woman.
Police in Tanjung Balai have since named 19 people as suspects, two of whom allegedly provoked the mob attacks. The others are accused of robbery and property damage.
"But the most important aspect is conflict prevention. Ways to strengthen these forums should the main priority," Tito said.