Approximately 500 Indonesians in Melbourne rallied in Box Hill Gardens earlier this month to express solidarity, sympathy and empathy for Jakarta’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, who was recently sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy.
Ahok, a member of Indonesia’s Christian minority, had been accused of insulting Islam, the belief of majority Indonesians, by saying that clerics had used a Qur’an verse, Al-Maidah 51, to mislead voters by telling them that Muslims were not allowed to vote for a Christian.
As a Christian and ethnically Chinese-Indonesian in Muslim-majority Indonesia, Ahok is a double minority in Indonesia. Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor for the past 50 years said that he was not insulting Qur’an, but the clerics’ interpretation of the verse.
Indonesian’s in Melbourne showed their concern over the unfair decision and today’s Indonesia’s politics in general that is worrying and hoped the Indonesian government would take the right and firm action regarding this issue. They also prayed for Ahok that was led by several religious leaders and with different beliefs.
Two days later, on 15th May 2018, hundreds of Indonesians reassembled in Alexandra Gardens at night, lighting up candles as a sign to support Ahok as well as to maintain Indonesia’s unity in diversity in order to achieve peacefulness. The event was attended by various ages, races and ethnic groups of Indonesians.
One of the participant who once was a student in Melbourne and is a permanent residence in Australia, Ayu, said that she was saddened about what happened in her country.
“Despite more than 25 years living abroad, I still love Indonesia and I’m just very sad and worried about what is happening right now. I’m worried that there will be a bigger problem than just Ahok’s imprisonment.”
Another participant was a university student, Alex. Even though he is studying abroad, he still cared about things that are going on in his country.
“It’s inspirational to see a large and peaceful gathering of Muslims, Christians and non-religious Indonesians. We are here because we care about Indonesia’s diversity and tolerance sustainability.”
“Indonesia’s political situation is worrying and is becoming far away from the ideals and foundations of the nation’s constitution. Religious politicisation and intolerance continue to trigger conflicts in society. It’s time for the minority to speak up.” Said Budi, another participant who was concerned about his country.
Another university student who was there, Sarah, said that the issue distracted her from her studies.
“I need to focus on my exam but this thing keeps distracting me. As a part of a minority in Indonesia, I am really worried about my family back home. I just don’t want what happened in 1998 happen again. It’s scary.
“I love Indonesia but I can’t see myself living there for the rest of my life, especially after what happened. I definitely will try my best to stay in Australia and hopefully can bring my family here someday.” She added.
Support for Ahok grew as Ahok has the world’s attention. More than 30 cities in Indonesia and more than 15 cities around the world participated in showing support to Ahok by lighting up 1000 candles. The cities includes Toronto (Canada), London (United Kingdom), Amsterdam (Netherland), Tokyo (Japan), Taipei (Taiwan), Helsinki (Findland), New York (United States), Perth, Sydney, Melbourne (Australia), etc.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, got a letter from an Indonesian student studying in Sydney regarding this matter when he visited Sydney a while ago. The letter was about “Why Bother Going Back to Indonesia?”.
*not everything on the letter is included and this is translated*
“Why Bother Going Back to Indonesia?”
“Although Indonesia is my homeland, but in this country people are not appreciated for their talent and performance, but because of their tribe and religion.”
“In this country, the righteous can go to jail, only because there is a bunch of demobilized thugs used the name of religion.”
“If Ahok who sincerely fought for Indonesia could end up in jail, would it be wrong for me and many others if we lose hope for Indonesia?”
“Am I wrong if I teach my child to study diligently, so that later he can choose to move and live in another country?”
“As I know, millions of people lose their confidence and hope for Indonesia today.”