Gay Tuballes-Deles/ANN staff
A recent festival of religious freedom cements the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Indonesia as a leading proponent of free expression of religion in the country.
Some 2,000 people gathered at the Aula Mapalus Kantor Gubernur Sulawesi Utara auditorium in Manado on May 5 to recognize the combined efforts of government and faith groups in preserving freedom of belief in the Southeast Asian country.
Interest in religious liberty has grown in Indonesia since the Adventist Church first held a festival of religious freedom in Jakarta two years ago, church religious liberty advocates said.
Faith representatives at this month’s festival commended the Adventist Church for organizing a festival that offers appreciation to government and faith leaders who advocate free expression of religious belief.
“We thank the Seventh-day Adventist Church for leading out in expressing our thanks to God and to the government for the religious freedom that we are enjoying in Indonesia, particularly here in North Sulawesi,” said J. Pangaila, leader of the Pentecostal Church in Indonesia.
Deputy Governor of North Sulawesi Roy Roring echoed Pangaila’s appreciation.
Muslim leader Tamzil Permata said, “We are committed to live peacefully together, Christians and non-Christians alike.”
Holding a public event organized by the Adventist Church demonstrated the positive relationship the church has promoted among faith groups in Manado, said East Indonesia Union Conference President Noldy Sakul, who organized the festival. Religious groups represented at the event included Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.
Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country with a Protestant Christian population of 6 percent. In 2006, reports of violence between faith communities surfaced, including the vandalism of church property and forcible closure of churches.
Since then, the Indonesian government has made “positive efforts to unite religious groups and foster and attitude of toleration and respect,” according to the Religious Freedom World Report. The publication, released by the Adventist world church’s department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, also notes that “fanaticism” and “deep-rooted violence” remain.
“You may not be affected today as you still enjoy [religious] freedom, but tomorrow it may not be the same story,” PARL director John Graz told the audience in Manado. He added that religious freedom is essential to “peace, unity and prosperity for the people of Indonesia and the government.”