Keep Indonesia Secular, Yudhoyono Urges

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono receiving the Sukarno Prize from Sukmawati Soekarnoputri in Gianyar, Bali, on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of presiden.go.id)

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono receiving the Sukarno Prize from Sukmawati Soekarnoputri in Gianyar, Bali, on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of presiden.go.id)

Jakarta. Indonesia is not a Muslim country and any efforts to turn it into one must be resisted, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Wednesday as he accepted an award for statesmanship.

Yudhoyono said that Sukarno, Indonesia’s founding president, had explicitly declared that Indonesia was a secular country and not an Islamic one, and that this basic tenet of the republic must be upheld.

“We have to protect this. My fear is that there are changes, pushes and thinking that tend toward turning this country into a non-secular one. Secularity is final, and this is an important legacy that we have inherited from Sukarno and the other founders of this republic,” Yudhoyono said at the Sukarno Center in Gianyar, Bali, where he was awarded the Sukarno Prize for championing humanity and democracy.

The president said he continued to study Sukarno’s teachings for insight into how to address Indonesia’s modern-day challenges.

“I don’t just respect what was done by this great leader, but also how his thoughts are still relevant in answering the questions we continue to face today,” Yudhoyono said.

The Sukarno Center awarded the prize to Yudhoyono for his “consistency in upholding the values” of Sukarno’s teachings. Yudhoyono’s decision to name Sukarno a national hero in 2012 was also cited as a factor, according to Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, one of the former president’s daughters and the chief patron of the Sukarno Center.

Previous recipients of the annual award have included the late anti-apartheid hero and former South African president Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar pro-democracy icon.

The award is the latest that Yudhoyono has picked up as he winds down his presidency, but which has served to highlight the gulf between his purported civic achievements and the reality on the ground.

The president was widely lambasted last May when he went to New York to receive the world statesman of the year award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, a US interfaith organization.

Critics have long pointed out that under Yudhoyono’s watch, Islamic Shariah was introduced in the country, albeit only in Aceh province, while bylaws deemed discriminating against religious minorities and women have mushroomed throughout the country.

His administration has also been slammed for failing to act against local authorities in West Java who have shuttered churches in direct violation of Supreme Court rulings, and for allowing the continued persecution of Ahmadiyah and Shiite communities throughout the country.

  • JVR

    SBY is NOT in the same league as Mandela or Aung San Suu Kyi and should not even be mentioned in the same breath. Meanwhile in Java (part of Indonesia SBY – just to the left of Bali a bit) churches are being torched whilst slightly further north west in a land called Sumatra (part of Indonesia SBY) women are being gang raped and caned under illegally imposed shariah law. Bet that statesman’s award feels a little heavy in your hands now doesn’t it?

  • Euan Mie

    Ever heard of leading by example mate? You’re the President. In a decade in power you did NOTHING at all to stop the rot, the persecution and the murders, indeed you petitioned the UN to create a global blasphemy law..and now your term is up you finally broach the subject…by passing the buck to your successor. For absolute shame.

  • Valkyrie1604

    Took him ten long years to say something like this.

  • CFCGoku

    u got it wrong. one of the early leader of united states, Thomas Jefferson, believe in question everything even ur own religion..
    The principle of indonesia is PANCASILA that is where the law stem out. The law should not be mix with religion. We honour diversities, til today the law accomodate all and we still dont have hudud law except aceh. there will be always fanatics, but that’s it is and should be made awareness and preserve value of democracy.
    In bible, there is anti-gay in leviticus if im not wrong (im buddhist). But today they promote gay right. THe principle of united states is liberty and freedom. While everybody is free to have religion, but the law should not be confuse in. Democracy wont born if people believe in religion law. justice system today made after series of reform. today they even hear the opinion of attacker before decide. if we listen to religion, today justice court wont happen

  • gadfly

    Reminds me, didn’t he, or at least some people from his government (including Kalla!), promised that the original perpetrators for the Lapindo mudflow should be fully held responsible AND the country shouldn’t have to pay a single rupiah to alleviate the mudflow problems (by building dams) and compensating the victims (for loss of lives, land and other possessions)?

  • Stan Chung

    Price went up? Last I went was just Rp 50K. 0:)

    Seriously working in Jkt is a challenge. Traffic is horrendous, productivity is limited. Overpopulated.
    People there are very warm and nice. The thing i miss most about Jkt.

  • joyoboyo

    Not too late. Indonesia’s finest hour is still ahead. The line is drawn in Aceh, the rest of the country will not fall to the Levant. The generation of Indonesians that brought the secular Pancasila, (Sanskrit word btw), did not die in vain. Resist fear and take actions against the non secularists you will, successfully. You have many, many friends.

  • Abi Tiyoso

    No

  • just me

    hear hear

  • good fences

    Or you become President of the United States of America and get even better awards, like the Nobel Peace Prize, for doing less than nothing LOL!!!

  • Max Headroom

    PS – Alastair – the “Secular Games” you mentioned are actually NOT the correct association in regards of a “Secular State”.

    Those games were called Ludi Saeculares (or correctly Ludi Terentini) and was basically in ancient Rome a pagan celebration, held for three days and nights to mark the end of a “saeculum” and the beginning of the next. A “saeculum” is supposedly the longest possible length of human life and was considered as either 100 or 110 years in length.

    So you see, those are two similar sounding words with two COMPLETELY different meanings.

    One means the the separation of religion and state (that the one we are talking about) and the other (which you quoted) the potential lifetime of a person or the equivalent of the complete renewal of a human population.

    Now I understand from your account that you are a “Gender Theologian and Linguistic Anthropologist” and I am “just” a half-baked academic – so I am sure you are correct and I am the dud here….

    • Alastair Haines

      This is a long debate we could have. I have had the conversation often. If you are an economics professor or computer scientist, that doesn’t outrank a grad student about to submit a dissertation in theology in re religion. In a past life I was army officer then actuary. Let’s not argue from authority shall we? Academics work through peer review, not hierarchies except for admin.

      Pagan is not just religious, but poly-religious, though you are using the term loosely. The Romans fostered religious pluralism. Judaism wouldn’t accept pluralism, most other tribes were cool with it. Christians only opposed when they were provoked.

      Secular is used in science to describe variables with wide scope. Roman Catholicism includes “secular priests,” one of whom proved the Big Bang before Hubble started seeing evidence of it.

      You are right about lifespan, but Lewis and Short, authorities on Latin list a range of other usages, all of which come from the concept of “global” or something like that. All of life (long lifespan). All of the values of a wide range of options in a variable. All of the tribes in a region. All of the religions and political groups encompassed together. Secular is the idea of unity in diversity. It is *not* the absence of religion, but the inclusion of all religions and those with no affiliation. Pancasila is secular because it is inclusive of all religions.

      Religions are always separate from the state, because they have higher authority. That is famously true in Hinduism, but is also characteristic of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but least pronounced in Christianity, which was a religion of slaves for centuries.

      Religions insist there must be no power of states over them, and so they ensure constitutions are written to separate church and state by freedom of religion clauses. Not freedom *from* religion clauses. Freedom of religion clauses, i.e. get out of gaol free clauses. That’s why Catholic churches still don’t have female priests. It’s against the law, but religions are not under the law, they are above it.

      This is not how I want to see it. It is the way High Courts see it. Catholics love it in the US. Christians fear it in Indonesia, because it is not always clear that militants can be opposed. But violence is not protected as religion in Indonesia. It’s a sensitive topic.

      Do you think Indonesian Christians would want a majority religion to be able to run the whole country? Atheists and Christians are not always on different sides. Sometimes Muslims and atheists are best off working together against Christian excesses as well. That’s secular democracy. Each his liberty, no one rules, none excluded.

      The Indonesian constitution says “Negara berdasar di Ketuhan Yang Maha Esa.” The nation is founded on God Almighty, in a way that is inclusive of all religions. That need not exclude atheists, btw, though it is for Indonesians to interpret it that way. What it doesn’t permit is an incorrect definition of secular as without religion.

  • Alastair Haines

    “secular” OED first definition: a priest outside a monastery
    secular government would then be one made up of priests outside monasteries, but there are other senses

    What dictionary is that? Oxford starts like this:
    secular, adj. and n.
    A. adj.
    I. Of or pertaining to the world.
    1.Ecclesiastical.
    a. Of members of the clergy: Living ‘in the world’ and not in monastic seclusion.