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Jakarta Protests Updates: Tens of Thousands Rally for Tolerance after Massive Protest Against Christian Governor

( [email protected] ) Dec 05, 2016 05:43 PM EST
At least 30,000 people took to the streets of Jakarta on Sunday calling for tolerance and unity two days after a massive protest was held against the city’s Christian governor over blasphemy allegations.
People attend a rally calling for national unity and tolerance in central Jakarta, Indonesia December 4, 2016.

Reuters/Darren Whitesides

At least 30,000 people took to the streets of Jakarta on Sunday calling for tolerance and unity two days after a massive protest was held against the city’s Christian governor over blasphemy allegations.

They participated in the rally called the “Parade of Indonesian Culture,” which showcased Indonesian traditional dances. People carried Indonesian flags and banners bearing the words “We Are Indonesia” to show that diversity is embraced and accepted in the country.

"We have to fight to materialize the aims of our independence. That will not happen if we are scattered, blaspheming, humiliating each other and no longer trust each other," National Democratic Party chairman Surya Paloh said at the rally, according to the Associated Prress.

"Our main enemies are stupidity and poverty. Therefore we ask the current government to work harder and always consistently with the people's aspirations," Paloh said.

On Friday, an estimated 200,000 protesters gathered at the National Monument to push for the arrest of Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, nicknamed Ahok, for allegedly insulting the Quran.

Ahok, the first Christian governor in Jakarta in 50 years, became governor on November 2014 when Indonesian Pres. Joko Widodo vacated the post for the presidency. He is running for next year’s gubernatorial race and was leading the polls before the blasphemy controversy began.

The straightforward, tough talking governor became popular for maintaining public order and achieving better health and education services in Jakarta. However, hardline Muslims opposed his leadership and candidacy because he is a Christian. He also belongs to the minority ethnic Chinese, according to The Straits Times.

Hardline Muslims campaigned against him, saying Muslims should not vote for an infidel. They circulated a video of Ahok delivering a speech telling the people to vote according to their conscience and not what their religious leaders are saying. He reportedly cited the Quran, which angered the Muslims and cried out blasphemy.

Last Friday’s protest, led by Muslim hardliners Islamic Defenders Front, was the second major protest against him. The first one was on Nov. 4, which drew a crowd of at least 100,000. Such protests appear to be testing the religious tolerance in Jakarta, where people are supposedly free to practice their religion.

In response to the mounting public clamor to arrest Ahok, the police have charged him of violating Article 156 Section A of the Criminal Code. He could face jail time of up to five years if found guilty of blasphemy. His case was officially received by the Attorney General’s Office last week.

The Christian governor, who is allowed to continue with his campaign while his case is being heard in court, asked for prayers as he goes through the trial.

“I ask you to pray for me so that the legal process is fair and transparent, and I hope I can get past this trouble as soon as possible,” he said, according to The Jakarta Post. “Therefore, I can use my time to provide better services to Jakarta residents.”

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