The government issued a public appeal on Friday (28/04), warning against sermons that promote religious or ethnic intolerance in a bid to restore humane values to places of worship across the archipelago. (Reuters Photo/Darren Whiteside)

Gov't Issues Public Appeal Against Divisive Religious Sermons

BY :ALIN ALMANAR

APRIL 29, 2017

Jakarta. The government issued a public appeal on Friday (28/04), warning against sermons that promote religious or ethnic intolerance in a bid to restore humane values to places of worship across the archipelago.

The issuance comes after months of heightened religious and ethnic tensions in the country leading up to Jakarta's recent gubernatorial election.

Signed by Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, the government's appeal also warned against sermons that promote political ideologies or campaigns.

However, the issuance is not legally binding but is instead aimed at prioritizing "social values" in places of worship in the country, Lukman said.

"Nevertheless, the government will not go to too far in interfering in houses of worship," Lukman told reporters in Jakarta.

"The government respects religious autonomy."

Most places of worship in the world's largest Muslim-majority democracy are established and managed by public organizations.

Indonesia has received global praise for its promotion of moderate Islam, though the country has witnessed an increasing number of Muslim hardline groups in recent years.

A series of mass rallies were conducted across the archipelago during Jakarta's gubernatorial election that called for the ouster and arrest of incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese ethnicity.

"I received a lot of complaints of religious institutions spreading disunity and intolerance that could ultimately disintegrate our nation," Lukman said.

"A number of places of worship have been rife with things that could spark conflicts."

Friday's appeal contained nine points and was targeted to religious preachers and the broader public.

"Sermons should not contrast elements of ethnicity, religion or race, as they can lead to conflicts," the appeal said.

"Sermons should not contain insults against the belief and practice of other congregations, and should avoid provocations to commit discrimination, intimidation or destruction."

"Preachers should measure how their sermons are delivered themselves," Lukman said, emphasizing that the government does not intend to jeopardize religious freedom in the country.

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