Concrete action, not ‘friendship tunnel’ needed to solve intolerance: Setara

Tempo – February 10, 2020
Istiqlal Mosque and St Mary of the Assumption Cathedral – Undated (Antara)

Egi Adyatama, Jakarta – Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace Deputy Chairperson Bonar Tigor Naipospos says that there is no urgency for the government to build a tunnel of friendship connecting the Istiqlal Mosque and the St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Central Jakarta.

According to Naipospos, the underground tunnel will not solve the problem of intolerance. “Indonesia is currently facing an emergency crisis of intolerance. Restoring pluralism and overcoming intolerance requires concrete actions and not just physical symbols such as building a tunnel”, said Naipospos when contacted by Tempo on Sunday February 9.

Naipospos is demanding concrete action from the government to overcome the problem of intolerance. Rather than building a tunnel, Naipospos says that the public would prefer to see action by the state, for example in resolving opposition to a Catholic place of worship in Karimun, Riau, by a group calling itself the Islamic Community Forum (FUI).

“Yet the church has been standing since 1928, before Indonesia even proclaimed independence. Or the opposition to the mosque in North Minahasa the other day which turned into an uproar because of the damage done by a group of people”, said Naipospos.

Naipospos said that the one of the reasons for the high level of intolerance in Indonesia is because the government is looking at the problem the wrong way. The central government as well as regional governments, according to Naipospos, always sees the problem of intolerance in political terms.

Because of this, the measures usually proposed by the government are to emphasise stability and security which is packaged with the language of religious harmony.

“The central government tends to see intolerance as a local (problem), minor frictions, connected to specific cases and not a symptom of a larger pattern”, said Naipospos.

Yet, he said, Setara Institute’s findings confirm that religious conservatism has grown stronger over the last decade. Behaviour accentuating religious egotism has increased. Attitudes which lack respect for those with different beliefs and interpretations even within the same religion is spreading.

“Even small levels of segregation are emerging as shown by existence of specific religious housing complexes, only accepting people for boarding houses of a particular religion and so forth”, said Naipospos.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo revealed a plan to build a “Tunnel of Friendship” when he was reviewing renovations to the Istiqlal Mosque on Friday February 7.

The construction will be done in concert with major renovations to the Istiqlal Mosque. Later, the tunnel will be built underground and will connect the Istiqlal Mosque with the nearby Cathedral Church.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Setara: Terowongan Silaturahmi Tak Selesaikan Darurat Intoleransi”.]