Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bogor Mayor Called to Account Over Defiance of Court Order

Encouraging this last week was the news out of Bogor, Java, as reported in the Jakarta Post, the Jakarta Globe and elsewhere, that both private parties and democratic political entities have begun to exert pressure on the mayor of that place to desist in his defiance of a Supreme Court order and reopen the CKI Yasmin church.

Mayor Diani Budiarto has stubbornly disregarded the order since its issuance early this year. Now at long last a formal inquiry has been set in motion by major political parties, including the party that contributed most significantly to Budiarto’s election -- the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) -- wherein the mayor will be called to account for his recalcitrance.

PDI-P Chairman, Untung W. Maryono, accused the mayor of mocking the rule of law by refusing to reopen the church, saying that “In his disobedience of the law, I see indications of defiance on the part of the mayor against keeping religious harmony.”

In a separate statement, Ruhut Sitompul, Lawmaker with the Democratic Party, said that the Bogor Legislative Council would be instructed to join in the effort to uphold the law. “We should work together to eliminate human rights violations,” he said, “especially those against religious freedoms. The mayor must be ousted.”

Start counting, Mr. Mayor.

In the meantime, parishioners at the Yasmin church have continued to hold services on the sidewalk outside their locked-down place of worship, while Muslim extremists have sought to interrupt, menace or expel the Christians, often leading to conflict and necessitating a police presence to keep the two groups separate. It is the latter group (not the rule of law) that has apparently exerted the greatest effect on Mayor Budiarto, convincing him that intolerant demands of the few are of greater importance than the prevailing laws and inclusive religious ideology of the Indonesian Nation.

’I’m just trying to keep the peace,’ the mayor claims, ’to maintain security in a community that doesn’t want the church here anyway.’

Yes? Is the community of Bogor, then, the voice of Indonesia? How about if the tables were turned? What if a mosque were closed, rather than a church? Still merely interested in maintaining security? At all costs? What happened to Pancasila -- Unity in Diversity -- the motto by which the Indonesian nation stands?

There is more here, I think, of the disingenuous than of the defence of the peace.

But it’s nothing new. Similar characters and intolerant factions have kicked against the ideal of justice throughout the ages. Once upon a time in America a man named George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, sought to defy the law of the land and the will of the majority, not to mention the direct order of the President, by barring a black student from registering at the University of Alabama. Wallace said that he felt the people of the State of Alabama expected it of him.

Was that the real reason, then? Or was George Wallace merely offended by the presence of black people on principle, the way some Muslim extremists are offended by the presence of Christians? What threat does this Christian minority pose? Is it to Islam, or the State, or the City; or is it to some weak and empty chamber in the heart of extremist fear and paranoia that can only be filled with blind hatred and violence?

We’ve had enough. This is the phrase that will ever arise in the mouths of the patient, silent majority. We have fought long and hard, through trial and loss, blood and triumph to forge societies that are just and fair, safe and secure, wherein each individual may pursue his inalienable right, as the American Declaration has it, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are slow to act because we had hoped we had arrived; we are patient because we understand that a certain amount of human ignorance is eternal; but when we are tried to the limit and tired at last of the ogre, the bully and the outlaw, we will stand and reaffirm our hard-won vision of government by tolerance, friendship, fairness and equality.

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