President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday urged the public not to let religious extremism flourish in Indonesia.
“Morally and socially, every leader in the country must prevent and reject extreme and radical behavior,” he said, during the annual official Christmas celebration at the Jakarta Convention Center. “Do not depend on state actions to overcome each obstacle against tolerance and the peacefulness of life in society.”
He added that each part of society must prevent individuals, groups and movement from spreading radicalism.
The celebration was attended by Vice President Boediono, chairman of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference (KWI) Ignatius Suharyo, interfaith activist Franz Magnis Suseno, cabinet ministers and around 4,000 Christians.
“Our nation must strengthen awareness and goodwill to build harmonious and peaceful living conditions,” Yudhoyono said. “We must develop all this in toddlers and continue it until school-age. Parents, teachers and religious leaders have a duty and a big responsibility. Religious leaders ought to sow the seeds of good deeds and grow them among their own people.”
Yudhoyono’s comments came in the wake of reports of religious intolerance in the archipelago, including the continued closure of the embattled GKI Yasmin congregation’s church in Bogor, which remains shuttered by the municipal government in defiance of two rulings by the Supreme Court.
“Let’s use our hearts and minds, not our emotion and violence,” Yudhoyono said. “Principally, the state will intervene if there is no other way and prevention fails to work. Law enforcement is the last option if persuasive approaches cannot succeed.”
The event was held after the actual holiday so that more guests would be able to attend.
“Since nine years ago, prior to and during Christmas celebrations across Indonesia, I have personally looked on hour by hour to ensure that Christmas security and services are going well so that such an important celebration proceed safely,” he said.