Indonesia: Christians call for Rejection of Shariah-inspired Bills

JAKARTA, August 19 (Compass Direct News) – The Indonesian Council of Churches (PGI) has called for the rejection of two bills inspired by sharia (Islamic law).

The Halal Product Guarantee Bill and the Zakat Obligatory Alms
Management Bill, both under consideration in the Indonesian parliament,
cater to the needs of one religious group at the expense of others,
violating Indonesia’s policy of pancasila or religious tolerance, said
the Rev. Dr. A.A. Yewangoe, director of the PGI.

“National laws must be impartial and inclusive,” Yewangoe told
Compass. “Since all laws are binding on all of the Indonesian people,
they must be objective. Otherwise discrimination will result … The
state has a duty to guard the rights of all its citizens, including
freedom of religion.”

Dr. Lodewijk Gultom, head of PGI’s Law and Human Rights
Department, pointed out that according to regulations on the formation
of proposed laws, a bill cannot discriminate against any group of
citizens. But the Halal product bill several times mentions sharia, as
if Indonesia were an exclusively Muslim state, he said.

“If this bill is enforced, it will cause other religions to
demand specific rights, and our sense of unity and common destiny will
be lost,” Gultom said.

Gultom also said the bills were an attempt to resurrect the
Jakarta Charter, a statement incorporated into Indonesia’s constitution
in 1945 before it was quickly withdrawn. It declared that the
newly-created state would be based on a belief in the one supreme God
“with the obligation to live according to Islamic law for Muslims.”

Public opinion on the Jakarta Charter remains sharply divided,
with some insisting that Islamic law is warranted because of the
country’s Muslim majority, while others believe its implementation
would disturb national unity.

Two members of Parliament, Constant Pongawa and Tiurlan
Hutagaol, both from the Prosperous Peace Party, have requested the
withdrawal of the Halal and Zakat bills to avoid creating conflict
between Muslims and other religious groups.

“These bills are a step backward and will lead to the isolation
of different religions,” agreed Ronald Naibaho, head of the North
Sumatran chapter of the Indonesian Christian Youth Movement.

National church leaders have requested a meeting with President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss the impact of these bills and a
number of other discriminatory laws being applied at provincial levels
across the country.