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Does SBY really deserve to get the 2013 World Statesman Award? I don’t think so

The information about SBY to receive the award as stated in the ACF's web: http://www.appealofconscience.org/


In other countries, citizens would be pleased and honored if their leaders or president s received an international award to recognize their efforts in promoting peace and tolerance among people of different religions and faiths.

But, that is likely to happen in Indonesia.

For the last couple of weeks, rights activists throughout the archipelago have been expressing their frustrations of news about President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who will receive the World Statesman Award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation in the end of May.

The foundation, established by Rabbi Arthur Schneier  in 1965, is the place where leaders of all faiths gather to promote peace, tolerance and ethnic conflict resolution. It annually recognizes world leaders who, according to the foundation, have promoted peace, tolerance and conflict resolution.  Past awardees include former French President Nikolas Sarkozy, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and also the late Margaret Thatcher, and a dozen of other prominent figures. These figures have been awarded by the foundation because they are seen as the champions of peace, tolerance and human rights. Who would not be delighted if their presidents were considered equivalent to the three mentioned figures?

But again, it does not seem to apply for Indonesians.

Yudhoyono, according to human rights activists in the country, is far from the image as a figure that promotes peace and tolerance. In this context, rights activists argue that SBY, the popular nickname of the President, has done inadequate efforts to solve various religious or ethnic conflicts, which have been escalating in the last couple of years.  

In the end of 2012, various rights-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) reported that the level of tolerance among people with different faiths and religions had significantly declined as indicated by the vast amount of religious violence. Wahid Institute, for instance, reported that 363 cases of religious conflicts and violence occurred in 2012, up from 317 in 2011. Out of the 363 cases, 166 cases were perpetrated by state actors like police officers. Meanwhile, another NGO, Setara Institute, recorded around 371 cases of religious violence in its annual report last year, up from 299 cases as stated in its 2011 report. Setara in its 2012 report stated that police institutions become the most frequent state actors that committed religious violence. Police institutions, according to Setara, tended to ignore various religious conflicts that happened throughout the country. They tended to side on the majority groups when religious conflicts happened, according to both NGOs.  

The reports, I believe, are true. In 2012, there were some major religious and ethnic conflicts happening in the country. One the bloodiest conflict is probably the Shia-Sunni conflict in Sampang, East Java. Most of Muslim Indonesians branded themselves as Sunni. Therefore, Shia-Sunni conflicts in the country are inevitable as in any other nations in the nation.However, the August 2012 Shia-Sunni conflict in Sampang is one of the deadliestone in the country’s history. More than 500 Sunni followers reportedly razed over a Shia community there. Two Shia followers were killed, some 37 houses of Shia followers were set ablaze and more than 250 of them were forced to live in refugee for months. Police were blamed because they were seen unresponsive to the conflict. This very same Sampang Shia community was also attacked by the Sunni in 2011, leading to the arrest of, uniquely, Shia leader Tajul Muluk. Tajul is now serving his four-year jail term. The violation of human rights to the Sampang Shia followers continues further after early in May the Sampang regencyadministration decided to remove them from the area to avoid further conflicts.

Besides the Sampang Shia-Sunni conflict, there were other major religious conflicts including houses of worships’ disputes in West Java. GKI  Taman Yasmin church and HKBP Filadelfia church have been struggling to claim their constitutional rights to establish houses of worships. Tales about the two churches are so abundant to find on the World Wide Web. However, in short, all I can say is that the state has neglected their plights for years. They, just as around 80 percent of Muslims in Indonesia, have rights whenever and wherever they want to establish their houses of worships.

With all of those religious conflicts happening last year, then, does SBY really deserve to get the 2013 World Statesman Award?  I, for sure, will join rights activists to say that the President does not deserve the Award.
SBY could bring the Award home, if he dared to say that Shia followers in Sampang can remain in their homeland and promised to secure their constitutional rights. SBY could get the Award if he, for once, appeared and joined weekly mass held by congregants of GKI Taman Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia in front of the state palace. Yudhoyono as the leader of the country ought to protect its citizens’ human rights instead of ignoring them. 

Rights activists have called for the cancellation of the award. I, regardless of how voiceless I am, also want him not to accept the award. If Mr. President never tries to reach the minority ones, then I believe that he does not deserve the World Statesmen Award, let alone the Nobel Award, the one that SBY reportedly always desires to get. 

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