Tolerance called for after request to ban mosque in Papua
Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura | Archipelago | Wed, March 02 2016, 9:05 AM -
Papua Governor Lukas Enembe called on residents on Tuesday to maintain tolerance and respect following a demand from a group of churches to ban the construction of a mosque in Jayawijaya regency.
“In Papua, we have 250 [local] languages. There are different religions, but we can maintain peace and avoid conflict. Religious conflict in Tolikara was settled properly,” Lukas said during a meeting of the Regional Leadership Communication Forum at the Papua Police headquarters.
The meeting was attended by Papua Police chief Isp. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw, Cendrawasih Military Commander Maj. Gen. Hinsa Siburian, chairman of the Papua Religious Harmony Forum (FKUB) Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar, Jayawijaya Regent John Wempi Wetipo, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama Jayapura Kahar Yelipele, chairman of the Jayawijaya Churches Communion (PGGJ) Abraham Ungirwalu and other Christian and Muslim leaders.
The meeting discussed a statement from PGGJ asking the regency to, among other things, stop the construction of the Baiturrahman grand mosque, ban the use of loudspeakers in mosques and ban the wearing of Muslim head scarfs in public spaces.
PGGJ issued the statement on Feb. 25 after a circulating text message stated that Muslims were building a four-story mosque with a 70-meter tall minaret that would be taller than the Jesus Christ statue in front of the regency office.
The statement was responded to by a statement from the Papua Central Mountains Muslim Forum that called PGGJ an illegal organization and urged the police to arrest Christian priests who had signed the statement calling for a ban on the mosque.
Jayawijaya Regent Wempi Wetipo said he gave a permit because it was a renovation instead of a new mosque building. A new mosque needs an approval from FKUB.
Kahar Yelipele added the mosque was renovated into two stories, not four stories, with a 20-meter minaret.
“So, it’s not right to say that the minaret will be 70-meters tall and the mosque will be four stories,” he said.
The meeting agreed that both PGGJ and the Muslim groups would retract their statements and would not extend the matter into a legal process.
After the meeting, Bishop Leo said the construction of houses of worship should be conducted according to the existing regulation that was based on a joint decree from the Home Ministry and the Religious Affairs Ministry.
However, Leo called on religious leaders to consider local customs before constructing houses of worship in order to avoid conflict.
He argued religious conflict had also contributed to economic disparities between local people and outsiders.
“Many outsiders who are Muslims control the economy. Kiosks belong to Muslims and there is the loud call to prayer. There is a feeling that this valley [in Papua] is dominated by Muslims. So, it’s important to consider [local] sensibilities to maintain religious tolerance,” Leo said.
Papua made headlines due to a religious-based riot in Tolikara last year. On July 17, hundreds of people confronted and pelted stones at a group of Muslims performing Idul Fitri prayers using loudspeakers in Karubaga, Tolikara. This forced the worshippers, who are a minority group in the area, to flee to a nearby local military office for protection.
The mob set a fire that burned down more than 50 kiosks and houses and a prayer room. Police released shots into the crowd, killing one of the protesters and injuring 11 others during the unrest.
On Feb. 18, the Jayapura District Court sentenced Jundi Wanimbo and Arianto Kogoya to two months and 26 days in jail for inciting the riot.