A visit by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Australia, delayed this week until perhaps next year, will present a fitting time to raise Australia’s concern with Indonesia’s perilous Blasphemy Laws, says the Australian Christian Lobby.
“It would be disturbing for the millions of Christians in Australia and Indonesia to witness Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja “Ahok” Purnama being interrogated today by police for allegedly blaspheming against the Koran,” says ACL Managing Director, Lyle Shelton.
Ahok, a Christian, appeared to suggest in a video that voters were being deceived by a verse in the Koran which some believe prohibits Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim.
Riots have resulted in Jakarta, and calls have been made for him to be jailed for his comments, even though he has since apologised for the remarks.
“As we work to build relationships, the Australian Government should seek to work with the Indonesian Government in ensuring freedom of speech and religion is maintained on the island archipelago,” Mr Shelton said.
“Many Indonesians will be frightened as a result of the action being taken by the police to interrogate Ahok. Christians and minority groups in Indonesia will be looking for reassurances from their government that other people will not be targeted for their beliefs.”
In October, the ACL called for the suspension of foreign aid to Pakistan because Christians, such as mother Asia Bibi who has been on death row since 2010, are falling foul of the country’s Blasphemy Law.
“Religious freedom is a fundamental human right and our Government must do everything it can to call on our trade partners to meet their international human rights obligations,” Mr Shelton said.
“As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Indonesia has an obligation to provide religious freedom to its citizens.”
Members of Parliament, including Senator Eric Abetz, Andrew Hastie and Michael Sukkar have raised in Parliament the plight of Asia Bibi and other Christians like her.