Indonesian police pledge to curb violence against religious minorities

(Photo: REUTERS/Beawiharta)Women members of the hardline Islamic group, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), shout slogans as they reject Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or Ahok as their governor in Jakarta, December 1, 2014. Ahok, Jakarta's first Christian governor in nearly 50 years was sworn in two weeks ago, despite protests from religious hardliners opposing a non-Muslim taking over one of Indonesia's most powerful political jobs.

Religious minorities in Indonesia are hoping the actions of President Joko Widodo's administration will impact on the situation of religious minorities in the country with the world's most Muslims.

A senior police official pledged to toughen the stance against religious intolerance, which human rights groups say were ignored under the administration of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In an interview with the Jakarta Globe newspaper, police spokesman Inspector General Ronny Sompie said the clampdown on religious intolerance has come from the national police chief General Sutarman.

Sompie said Sutarman told officers at the police academy in Semarang, Central Java that they must uphold the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom in Indonesia.

"There can be no more evictions, violence and coercion towards any religious beliefs as stipulated in the 1945 constitution," Sutarman said.

The days of groups citing religion as a reason to launch attacks on houses of worship are numbered, Sompie pointed out.

"The protection for minority groups, be it religious groups, tribes or races must be conducted optimally," said the police spokesman.

In 2013, the New York-based Human Rights Watch noted a pattern in violence against religious minorities living in Indonesia occurred.

The report listed down attacks mounted by Islamist militant groups against minority groups.

The attacks were lodged against Ahmadis, Christians and Shia Muslims, according to the report.

During the decade-long rule of Yudhoyono, rights activists say he failed to protect minorities in Indonesia, as violence against them rose steadily.

Indonesia is trying to rein in the sentiments of the Sunni Muslim majority, who have been accused as the perpetrators of threats and violent attacks against religious minorities.

Some groups of Sunnis have also been accused of trumping up blasphemy charges against leaders of minority groups.

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