Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners

Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners
Widodo has pledged to bring reform to Indonesia

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded to Indonesia to stop the execution of prisoners on death row for drug crimes. AFP PHOTO

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person
The pope wrote that the principle of legitimate personal defense isn’t adequate justification to execute someone. Photograph: Zuma/Rex

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison   (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)
US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)
Woman who spent 23 years on US death row cleared (Photo: dpa)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Habibie Award goes to researcher, scholar and interfaith activists

Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 11/30/2010

Former President BJ Habibie honored a researcher, a professor and two interfaith leaders with 2010 Habibie Awards on Tuesday.

Eniya Listiani Dewi, a researcher from the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), was granted the award – from Habibie’s foundation the Habibie Center – for her innovations in nanotechnology and chemical engineering.

A professor from the University of Indonesia's School of Literature, Adrian Bernard Lapian, was honored for his work on cultural issues.

Ahmad Syafii Maarif, former chair of Indonesia's second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, and Franz Magnis Suseno, a German-born Jesuit priest, were recognized for their roles in promoting interfaith dialogue and religious harmony.

Vice President Boediono attended the awards ceremony.

Indonesian hajj pilgrims to wear batik clothes next year

Antara News, Tuesday, November 30, 2010 19:10 WIB

Medan, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Indonesian hajj pilgrims going to the Holy Land next year will put on `batik` clothes, no longer blue-colored uniforms the Indonesian hajj pilgrims have been using so far, a minister said.

"Beginning next year, the Indonesian hajj pilgrims will wear `batik` clothes as their uniforms," Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said here on Tuesday.

Suryadharma Ali who is also chairman of the United Development Party (PPP), made the remarks on the sidelines of the consolidation meeting of PPP here.

He said that the use of batik clothes was intended to arouse the national pride of Indonesian hajj pilgrims.

"The Indonesian hajj pilgrims will feel stronger national pride if they put on batik clothes," he said.

National camp

The Jakarta Post, Antara, Pidie, Aceh | Tue, 11/30/2010

National camp: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (second right) accompanied by First Lady Ani Bambang Yudhoyono (right), together with Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf (left) talk with scout participants in the opening of Wirakarya national camp at Seulawah Scout Camp in Pidie, Aceh on Tuesday. The camp will run from Nov. 29 until Dec. 6 with 8,600 participants. (Antara/Ampelsa)

Monday, November 29, 2010

U.S. President Obama watches basketball game with families after injured   2010-11-28 

U.S. President Barack Obama with first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Sasha (2nd L) and Malia (R) watch a basketball game at the Howard University in Washington November 27, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Editor: Tang Danlu

The evidence says Muhammad existed

RNW, 25 November 2010, By Michel Hoebink

(photo: flickr/Zoe52)

Some sceptical scholars claim that Muhammad did not exist and that Islam is a fabrication made up in later centuries. But Leiden University’s Petra Sijpesteijn has demonstrated from her work on Arabic papyrus manuscripts that their claim is not true.

What was the origin of Islam and what went on at the dawn of Islamic history? In the past, scholars who wanted to research the subject had to rely on the official Islamic version of events which was only written down about 200 years after Muhammad’s death. Only relatively recently has interest grown in more objective but less accessible sources such as coins, inscriptions and texts written on papyrus.

Petra Sijpesteijn, professor of Arabic language and culture at Leiden University, says that this last source is especially important. “The papyri are in fact the only contemporary source for the first 200 years of Islamic history.”


Papyrus manuscripts have been found in their thousands in the sand and at ancient rubbish tips all over the Middle East but especially in Egypt. Dr Sijpesteijn explains that they are often difficult to read because they are partially destroyed, badly written out or in dialect. “But if you can read them, they offer a unique glimpse of ordinary life at the dawn of Islam.”

The study of Arabic papyri is in its infancy. Only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of available manuscripts have been studied. As far as the work done so far is concerned, the Muslim faithful can set their minds at ease: Dr Sijpesteijn says the texts largely confirm the official Islamic version of events.

Disorganised horde

Dr Sijpesteijn distances herself from the small group of polemical colleagues, known as the ‘revisionists’, who assert that the Prophet Muhammad probably did not exist. They say the Arabic conquerors were actually a disorganised horde of Bedouins who gained control of half the known world more or less by chance. Islam is said to have been dreamt up 200 years later in Iraq.

“From the papyri, it appears that the Arab conquests were indeed carefully planned and organised and that the Arabs saw themselves as conquerors with a religious mission. They also appear to have held religious views and followed customs which contain important elements of the behaviour and beliefs of later Muslims.

Dr Sijpesteijn says for example that, shortly after Muhammad’s death, there is already mention of a pilgrimage (hajj) and a tax to collect money for the poor (zakat). She has also come across a papyrus text written around 725 which names both the prophet and Islam.

Even so, her discoveries form a potential threat to the image some modern Muslims have of their history. The papyri contradict the belief held by many of today’s Muslims that Muhammad delivered Islam as a sort of ready-made package. “It looks as though Islam in its first centuries developed a form gradually. There was an awful lot of discussion about precisely what it meant to be a Muslim.”

Related Articles:

Religion/Humanity from another perspective:

"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) - New

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Soeharto’s politics during the Japanese occupation

Dicky Christanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sun, 11/28/2010

This book offers a rather unique perspective on Soeharto, the former president infamous for his militaristic leadership during his 32 years in office.

Based on various do-cuments and books, including Soeharto’s 1989 autobiography My Thoughts, Words and Deeds and interviews with Soeharto’s former Japanese superiors and his fellow Indonesian officers, David Jenkins, an Australian journalist and writer, is trying to offer us insight into Soeharto’s thoughts and strategies.

Early on, the book tries to provide multiple perspectives. For instance, in November 1942, in the early years of the Japanese occupation, it is said that Soeharto, a former Dutch KNIL (Koninklijke Nederlands-Indische Leger) sergeant, was “jobless and in great confusion” when just across the street, the Japanese were offering security positions to locals.

Soeharto was reluctant. He wanted to apply for the job but on the other hand he was afraid the Japanese would find out about his background as a former Dutch sergeant.

Soeharto recalled that “he finally managed to make his way to the force without revealing his army background” (page 14).

This is an important episode. Had the Japanese known that anyone previously worked for the Dutch, he or she would be sent to prison.

But Jenkins doubts Soeharto’s statement. His comparative data shows another fact that “a thorough yet tight screening method had been conducted by Keinpetai, an intelligence unit under the Japanese military, in recruiting local police candidates at that time” (page 14).

Thus, it would be almost impossible for the Japanese to let such a potentially dangerous person join the force.

Jenkins also supports his finding by interviewing Tsuchiya Kiso, a former Japanese army intelligence officer who knew Soeharto. Kiso tells him that “it was only in the beginning that the Japanese officers weren’t aware of Soeharto’s past as a Dutch sergeant” (page 15).

This of course raises another question: why the Japanese decided to let Soeharto join the force?

From what I have read, the sole reason behind the Japanese occupation force’s decision in welcoming Soeharto to its ranks, first as a policeman then an army officer, was simply because Soeharto was never considered a threat, but rather an officer with great potential (page 32).

Tsuchiya Kiso, who later recruited Soeharto to PETA, a local army battalion that was initially formed as a Japanese reserve army to fight US soldiers during World War II, acknowledged that he was fully aware of Soeharto’s background as a Dutch sergeant but nevertheless decided to accept Soeharto because, “Our need for such a professional profile had made me go against the army headquarters’ order to avoid recruiting any person affiliated with the Dutch” (page 83).

Soeharto earned the Japanese’s respect and trust. Second Lt. Nakamoto Yoshiyuki, Soeharto’s former superior officer, said that all Soeharto’s former Japanese trainers recalled the former president as “modest, clever and one who never lost control” (page 172).

These Japanese officers apparently never realized that Soeharto, from the time he joined the police through his time as a soldier with PETA, had grown dissatisfied with the Japanese occupation, especially with its practice of romusha, in which thousands of people were enslaved and put into forced labor to construct railways, roads and buildings (page 191).

Unlike Suprijadi, a fellow officer of PETA, who dared to confront the Japanese by organizing a local revolt in Blitar, East Java, in early 1945, Soeharto was at that time occupied with training a new PETA battalion also in Blitar when the Japanese occupation ended with Japan’s surrender to the US forces on Aug. 15, 1945.

Besides revealing Soeharto’s dedicated career during the Japanese occupation, the book unveils some interesting facts that might have helped develop Soeharto’s militaristic leadership skills.

Soeharto, for example, is described to have inherited a great distrust of the Muslim hardliners and the communists on both the Japanese and Dutch sides because “the followers of these two ideologies have shown great militancy and often unpredictability” (page 48).

The book also describes Soeharto as a person who showed a great interest in learning from the keinpetai’s method of interrogation, which was famous for its cruelty (page 24).

Another fact that has been unearthed is how the Japanese trainers successfully implanted the importance of showing solidarity especially toward subordinates through months of hard training.

Later on during his military and political careers, Soeharto was known as a commander who offered great protections, both literally and figuratively speaking, to his subordinates who paid great respect and loyalty to him.

Harsutedjo, the book’s translator, says, “Soeharto’s cronies will always consider him a hero since he is like a great protector of their corrupt behavior.”

Harsutedjo was once affiliated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), which was outlawed by Soeharto. Many of its activists, including Harsutedjo, were sent to prison without proper trial.

The book also tells the readers how Soeharto maintained relations with those around him during the Japanese occupation.

It is rather surprising to find out that Soeharto in his early presidential tenure, visited several of his former Japanese officers as a sign of respect (page 112).

On the other side, it is also clearly described how Soeharto made enemies with some of his former colleagues at PETA. Soeharto for example, rejected the appointment of Pranoto Reksosamoedro, a military caretaker, by then president Sukarno after the abortive coup of the PKI.

According to the book, the rejection was actually only a reaction or some might say Soeharto’s revenge against Pranoto who had unveiled Soeharto’s smuggling activities when he was a military commander in Central Java (page 119).

Despite some minor weaknesses in the book — including some awkward expressions (probably the result of a poor translation) and in places very long explanations — this book will serve as good company to those interested in history.

Related Article:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Muslims working in churches? No problem

Irawaty Wardany, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, 11/27/2010

Edy Supandi finishes cleaning the service hall of the Ekklesia Church in Kalibata, South Jakarta, on a Saturday afternoon.

After making sure that everything was clean and in order and that the pulpit cloth had been changed into green one for Sunday service, he finally had some time to rest.

Edy, a Muslim, is quite aware that the cloth should be green, the liturgical color, for Sunday services, purple for weeks of Advent (the season including the four Sundays preceding Christmas), red for Christmas, and white for Holy Communion celebrations.

He has been working in the church since 2002, despite hailing from a Muslim family.

In the beginning, he ran a small stall selling cigarettes in front of the church before someone from the church organization offered him a job.

“I was asked to clean the church and prepare things for services,” he recalled.

“At the time, I had no second thoughts about accepting the offer considering the income from my stall was not enough to feed my family,” the 36-year-old father of three said.

Edy said he never thought having a different belief from those who worshipped at the church would be an obstacle.

“I don’t think this has anything to do with religion. What I do is work, so as long as it is halal [sanctioned by Islamic law], why not?” he said.

At first many people including some in his family, objected to his working in a church, but he told them that his faith would not be easily shaken just because he worked in a non-Muslim house of worship.

“I was raised in a quite devout Muslim family in Kuningan, West Java,” Edy said.

After a while, he said, he noticed that people began respecting differences automatically when both sides eliminated all suspicion toward each other, and “just mind your own religion”.

Edy says this was clear in daily interactions when colleagues in the church often reminded him about his religious obligations, for example on Fridays when Edy was asked whether he had gone to Friday prayers at the mosque yet.

During the Idul Fitri holiday following the Muslim fasting month, people from the church collected money for Edy, and in return he visits them at home on Christmas.

Daroji, a Muslim who works at the Muara Karang Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in North Jakarta, said he also learned that working in a non-Muslim house of worship did not sway his faith, but instead helped grow a better understanding of something previously unfamiliar.

“When I first started working here nine years ago, I was criticized by my family, who believed that working in a church is haram [forbidden by Islamic law],” he told The Jakarta Post recently.

“I told my family that it was better to work in a church than to abandon my children and wife because I didn’t have a job.

“I think that would be a greater sin,” Daroji said.

“Besides, faith is something that you hold strongly in your heart, not where you work,” he added.

So far, he, church leaders and the congregation are able to live in harmony based on respecting each others’ faith.

“If the church hosts an event, they let me know beforehand what food I can eat and can’t eat,” Daroji said, referring to non-halal ingredients.

In return, he sometimes reminds church ministers about the liturgical color for the religious services should the preachers forget.

Even though he does not understand the meaning of each color, he has memorized the order.

“Purple is for [the weeks before] Christmas, red is for holy matrimony,” he recited.

Commenting on a recent spate of interreligious violence in the city, Daroji said he could not understand what drove people to attack those of different faiths, “My religion does not teach me to create conflict and I don’t believe other religions do so,” he said.

The Mahanaim Church and Al-Muqarrabien Mosque share more than just a wall.
(Photo courtesy of Asia Calling)

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Internet fever

The Jakarta Post, Antara, Bojonegoro. East Java | Fri, 11/26/2010

A young mother with child on her lap browse the internet in the front of the Bojonegoro Regency office, East Java, on Friday. The internet era has apparently managed to catch everyone's attention right now from those who live in big cities to those in regencies.

Obama pardons Thanksgiving Turkey Apple

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey, named Apple, during a ceremony with his daughters Sasha (C) and Malia in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, Nov. 24, 2010. Obama speared the turkey on Wednesday from being served for Thanksgiving dinner. In the United States, Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November and is part of four day long weekend marking the most popular family reunion time in a year. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

The National Thanksgiving Turkey, named Apple, waits
to be pardoned by U.S. President Barack Obama in the
Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., capital
of the United States, Nov. 24, 2010.
(Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

Rethinking Indonesian Women’s Rights in Religion

Jakarta Globe, Nurfika Osman | November 25, 2010

Jakarta. Patriarchal religious traditions play a key role in fostering a culture of violence against women, and Indonesia is not immune to this problem, activists have said.

Activists rallying in Central Jakarta on the International
Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
on Thursday. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)
The activists were speaking at a discussion on Thursday as part of the UN’s Unite campaign — a 16-day global initiative held in the run-up to International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was observed on the same day.

Sinta Nuriyah Wahid, the widow of former President Abdurrahman Wahid, said the problem in Indonesia arose from the fact that Koranic teachers were almost invariably men, who tended to put a patriarchal spin on their interpretations of holy verses.

“We need to reinterpret the verses so that they’re no longer gender-biased, and we need women to be involved in the process,” she said.

“When we deal with violence against women, we often face practices informed by mistaken interpretations of the verses. I know this isn’t an easy job for everyone, because religious traditions are very strong — as is the patriarchal system — but we can minimize this.”

Nuriyah has worked with women’s groups for the past 10 years to get pesantren , or Islamic boarding schools, to teach their female students about the Koran. “The key is pesantren-based movements, as these schools are run by kyais, the highest authority in Islam,” she said.

“These people are highly respected in society, and most religious interpretations originate from their schools.”

She said that while it had been a struggle to persuade kyais to teach girls, the momentum should not be stopped.

Nuriyah said the patriarchal system that influenced much of Indonesian life could be eased through ongoing engagement at all levels of society, including with policy makers.

“Continued dialogue by all parties is needed to eliminate all violations of women’s rights and to raise awareness of gender and women’s rights at all levels of society,” she said.

Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said her group was working with religious leaders on reinterpreting the scriptures.

“We’ve published a book titled ‘ Memecah Kebisuan ’ [‘Breaking the Silence’] that shows that if religious groups take a stand against gender discrimination, the ideas will be disseminated to their followers and thus promote gender awareness in society,” she said.

She added the book included views from Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah — the country’s two biggest Islamic organizations, which together have nearly 70 million members — as well as Protestant and Catholic leaders.

Yuniyanti also said that enlisting men in the campaign was crucial to ending gender discrimination. “We have two male commissioners at Komnas Perempuan, and one of them is from a religious organization,” she said.

“This is how we approach religious groups to get them to adopt more gender-sensitive views.”

Between 1998 and 2009, Komnas Perempuan received 295,836 reports of violence against women, 91,311 of which involved sexual violence.

The number of reports peaked last year at 143,586, although this has been attributed to more women coming forward to report cases rather than a spike in violations.

Daisy Khan, head of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, says she
emerged from her struggle with her faith to adopt a more liberal interpretation of
Islam that allows her American identity and religious tradition to co-exist.

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Dutch Turkish woman Semra Çelebi no longer wears her
(Photo: RNW)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Former Sex Slaves Call on Japan for Full Apology

Jakarta Globe, November 25, 2010

Portraits of former Indonesian sex slaves during Japan colonization called Jugun Ianfu (comfort women) exhibited at Erasmus Huis in Jakarta. Six former Korean wartime sex slaves and more than 200 supporters gathered Thursday in Tokyo to call on Japan for a full official apology and compensation in a petition to Prime Minister Naoto Kan. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

Tokyo. Six former Korean wartime sex slaves and more than 200 supporters gathered on Thursday in Tokyo to call on Japan for a full official apology and compensation in a petition to Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, they submitted a petition of around 600,000 signatures collected in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and other regions.

“I really hope for no more wars, which would inevitably create victims like me,” said one of the former comfort women, 83-year-old Gil Won Ok from South Korea.

South Korean lawmaker Lee Mi-Kyung also visited with a petition signed by 177 South Korean parliamentarians.

The elderly Korean women and their supporters faced abuse from dozens of Japanese nationalists who staged their own protest outside the parliamentary office building where they had gathered.

Up to 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries are estimated to have been kidnapped and forced to work as “comfort women” in military brothels used by Japanese troops during World War II.

Japan has apologized for the military’s involvement in crimes against the women, but denies responsibility for running a system of military brothels before its surrender to Allied forces in 1945.

The issue has long proved an irritant in relations between Japan and its neighbors.

The movement seeking an official apology and compensation from Japan has gained momentum following political change in the country, with the center-left Democratic Party ousting the conservatives last year, organizers said.

Agence France-Presse

Aging Filipino women who claim to be former wartime Japanese sex blow whistles in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila, Philippines on Wednesday. The group demands from the Japanese government an apology and the redress of the crimes committed against Filipino women during World War II. (AP/Aaron Favila)

Related Article:

Manado Lights the Way for Diversity

Jakarta Globe, Norimitsu Onishi | November 25, 2010

Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, has welcomed a new addition to the city’s skyline — a 62-foot-tall statue of a menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum recognized as an ancient symbol of Judaism, rising from the mountains overlooking the city.

The local government of the mostly Christian district of North Minahasa erected the giant menorah last year, possibly the world’s largest, at a cost of $150,000, said Margarita Rumokoy, the head of the district’s tourism department.

“It is also for the Jewish people to see that there is this sacred symbol, their sacred symbol, outside their country,” he said.

Flags of Israel can be spotted on motorcycle taxi stands around the city, one near a six-year-old synagogue that has received a face-lift, including a ceiling with a large Star of David, paid for by the city.

Denny Wowiling, a local legislator, said he proposed building the menorah after learning about the one in front of Israel’s Knesset.

He hoped it would help attract tourists and businessmen from Europe.

Long known as a Christian stronghold and more recently as home to evangelical Christian groups, this area on the fringes of northern Indonesia has become the unlikely setting for increasingly public displays of pro-Jewish sentiment as some people have embraced the faith of their Dutch Jewish ancestors.

With the local governments’ blessing, Manado’s Jews are carving out a small space for themselves in the shifting religious landscape of Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

The trend comes as extremist Islamic groups have grown bolder in assailing Christian and other religious minorities elsewhere in Indonesia, while the central government, fearful of offending Muslim groups, has done little to prevent the attacks.

Last November, extremists protesting the 2008-09 war in Gaza shut down what had been the most prominent remnant of Indonesia’s historic but little-known Jewish community, a century-old synagogue in Surabaya, the country’s second-largest city.

That left the synagogue in a town just outside Manado — founded by Indonesians still struggling to learn about Judaism and now attended by about 10 people — as the nation’s sole surviving Jewish house of worship.

Before reaching out for help to occasionally suspicious Jewish communities outside Indonesia, the group researched Judaism at an Internet cafe.

They turned, they said jokingly, to “Rabbi Google” for answers. The group compiled a Torah by printing pages off the Internet. They sought the finer points of davening prayer on YouTube.

“We’re just trying to be good Jews,” said Toar Palilingan, 27, wearing a black coat and a broad-brimmed hat in the ultra-Orthodox style. Palilingan led a Sabbath dinner at his family home recently with two group regulars.

“But if you compare us to Jews in Jerusalem or Brooklyn, we’re not there yet,” he said.

Indonesia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations but have discreetly shared military and economic ties over the decades. In recent years, Jewish businessmen from Israel and elsewhere have quietly traveled here seeking business opportunities.

Moshe Kotel, 47, who was born in El Salvador and has Israeli and American citizenship, has been coming to Manado every year since 2003 and owns an organic egg business.

Kotel, whose wife is from the area, said he felt nervous landing at the airport here for the first time.

“It was 1 p.m. already, and I always carry tefillin with me,” Kotel said, referring to the small leather boxes housing scriptural passages. “But ever since I saw the Israeli flags on the taxis at the airport, I’ve always felt welcome here.”

Lawmaker Wowiling, a Pentecostal Christian, emphasized that Christians and Muslims generally live peacefully in North Sulawesi, but acknowledged that “there are worries that we might be targeted by people from outside.”

Increasingly strong pro-Jewish sentiments in the region also appear to be an outgrowth of an evangelical Christian movement, that with the help of American and European missionaries has taken root here in the past decade.

Some experts regard this movement as a reaction against the growing role of orthodox Islam in the rest of Indonesia.

“In Manado, Christianity has always strongly marked its identity with the belief that it is opposed to the surrounding sea of Islam,” said Theo Kamsma, a scholar at The Hague University who specializes in Manado’s Jewish legacy.

Christianity and a reemerging Judaism share a “rebellious” nature, he added.

Two years before the menorah was built, a Christian real estate developer raised a 98-foot-tall statue of Jesus on top of a hill here; the statue is about three-quarters the size of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

In the town center, churches belonging to a multitude of denominations now sit only a few hundred yards apart.

An abandoned building was once used for preparing the bodies of local Jews for burial in the Jewish cemetery in Surabaya.

During Dutch colonial rule, Jewish communities were established in major trading cities where they often dealt in real estate, acting as mediators between colonial rulers and locals, said Anthony Reid, a scholar on Southeast Asia at the Australian National University.

Given Indonesia’s traditionally moderate Islam, anti-Jewish sentiments were never strong.

“The anti-Jewish feelings really came in the 1980s and 1990s, because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Reid said.

In Surabaya, in a Jewish cemetery now overgrown with weeds, gravestones indicate that people were buried there as recently as 2007.

The synagogue, located on a major street, had been inactive for the past decade but was still being used for funeral services.

“We never had any problems until last year,” said Sunarmi Karti, 46, an Indonesian woman in Surabaya who still lives in a house inside the synagogue’s compound and whose stepfather was Jewish.

Here in Manado, families of Dutch Jewish ancestry practiced their faith openly before Indonesia gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949.

After that, they converted to Christianity or Islam to avoid persecution.

“We told our children never to talk about our Jewish origins,” said Leo van Beugen, 70, who was raised Roman Catholic. “So our grandchildren do not even know.”

It was just over a decade ago, during a heated exchange over the Bible and Moses, that Palilingan’s maternal great-aunt let slip the family’s Jewish roots.

Palilingan — a lecturer in law at Sam Ratulangi University, where his father, a Christian, and mother, a Muslim, also teach — learned that his relatives on his mother’s side descended from a 19th-century Dutch Jewish immigrant, Elias van Beugen.

His great-aunt suggested that he meet the Bollegrafs, once the most prominent Jewish family in Manado.

Oral Bollegraf, now 50, had been a Pentecostal Christian all his life but knew that his grandfather had maintained Manado’s only synagogue in their family home.

“We never acknowledged that we were Jewish,” said Bollegraf. “But everybody in town knew us as a Jewish family.”

Palilingan made contact with the rabbi who was physically closest, Mordechai Abergel, an emissary to Singapore from the Brooklyn-based Chabad Lubavitch movement.

Rabbi Abergel said Palilingan had done a “great job” in trying to reconnect with his Jewish roots, though he had yet to undergo a full conversion.

Committed to what he calls the “purity” of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, Palilingan sometimes wears its adherents’ telltale black and white clothing in public here and in Jakarta.

The New York Times

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In Sliver of Indonesia, Public Embrace of Judaism

Business and pleasure: Children frolic on the beach in Manado, North Sulawesi, on Sunday. The beach is made of land reclaimed by the local government to give more space to businesses and ports. (JP / Antara/Basrul Haq)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Indonesian Cleric Gets 4 Years Jail Over Sex With Child Bride

Jakarta Globe, November 24, 2010

Jakarta. An Indonesian court sentenced a wealthy Muslim cleric to four years in prison on Wednesday for having sex with a 12-year-old girl he took as his unofficial wife.

Pujiono Cahyo Widiyanto, center in white, a wealthy
Muslim cleric was sentenced to four years in prison
on Wednesday for having sex with a 12-year-old girl
he took as his unofficial wife. (AFP Photo)
Pujiono Cahyo Widiyanto, 45, from the Central Java city of Semarang, sparked nationwide controversy over his decision to wed Lutfiana Ulfa in August, 2008.

"The defendant has been proven to have had a sexual relationship with an underage girl, Lutfiana Ulfa. We sentence him to four years in prison," judge Hari Mulyanto said.

Lutfiana screamed hysterically when she heard the sentence read out in court.

"We'll appeal against the decision," Widiyanto's lawyer OC Kaligis said.

Widiyanto — also known as Sheikh Puji — said the girl had reached puberty when he married her in an unofficial religious ceremony, and claimed his actions were acceptable under Islam.

The age of consent in Indonesia is 16 for married females and 18 for males.

Indonesian law has harsh penalties for pedophilia, but unregistered marriages between older men and under-age girls are common in rural areas.

Agence France-Presse

Father John M. Fiala, arrested in area sex case

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Interfaith Food Fight Brings Lombok’s Muslims and Hindus Closer Together

Jakarta Globe, Fitri R. | November 23, 2010

Mataram. A war between the faithful of two religions is never a good thing — except in Lingsar village in West Lombok district, where an annual tradition serves to promote rather than quash interfaith harmony.

Muslims and Hindus carry offerings for the ‘Ketupat War’ at the
Lingsar temple complex in Lombok. The participants fling
rice sanctified with holy water at one another. (JG Photo/Fitri R.)
For the war that takes place here is no more than a food fight, and is called Perang Topat (Ketupat War), after the steamed rice cakes that participants hurl at one another.

The warring factions are the village’s Hindu and Muslim communities, who face off during the full moon of the seventh month of the ancient Sasak calender, which this year fell on Sunday. The battleground was the Lingsar temple complex, which uniquely houses the Hindu Gaduh temple and the Kemaliq Mosque side by side.

Following a series of processions and elaborate rituals, capped with a mass prayer observed by both Hindus and Muslims alike, the fun begins.

Appointed village youths climb the temple walls and prepare to unleash piles of ketupat that have been soaked in holy water and blessed with Hindu and Muslim prayers, which residents then rush to collect and bombard the “enemy” with.

The battle lasts no more than half an hour, to the accompaniment of cheers from the crowd and the participants.

The tradition, which has been observed for generations going back at least 200 years, is practiced every year to strengthen ties between the members of the two religions.

Suparman Taufik, an elder from the Kemaliq Mosque, said the mock battle celebrated the warrior traditions of always doing good and forgiving past grudges once the fighting was over.

Local historian Jalaludin Arzaki said that while the tradition pitted Hindu and Muslim communities against each other, its origins were not religious. It was adapted from earlier rituals of ancestor worship and kindness.

He said the roots of the tradition went back 350 years, when the pagan Sasak ruler of the area built Kemaliq as a holy place open only to those of high virtue.

The Gaduh Temple was built later by officials of the expanding Balinese kingdom, and in 1759 the Lingsar temple complex was formalized.

“Both buildings brought together Sasak and Balinese traditions, and the people here have since lived together in harmony,” Jalaludin said.

He added that while the Perang Topat was influenced by both the Hindu and Muslim communities in Lingsar village, the tradition had a heavy Sasak influence and was practiced by Sasak communities elsewhere in the province as well.

“At the heart of it all, the Perang Topat is an agrarian folk tradition through which the people express their hope for a successful harvest and good fortune in their lives,” he said.

But the celebration has now also become a highlight of the tourist agenda in the district.

Robijono Rastijanto, head of the West Lombok Culture and Tourism Office, said the tradition was unique in that it uses the theme of war to foster peaceful coexistence.

“It’s always something that the locals look forward to every year, and it’s a potent symbol of peace for both the Hindu and Muslim communities,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Perang Topat differs from regular food fights in that the ammunition doesn’t go to waste.

After the event, all the ketupat used is collected once again and used as an organic fertilizer in rice paddies and vegetable gardens across the village.

ANOTHER DAY PASSES: Muslims from a variety of backgrounds enjoy fast-breaking meals prepared by the Indonesian-Chinese Muslim community and local residents at the Cheng Ho Mosque in Surabaya, East Java. (JP/ID Nugroho)

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