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. …

Monday, June 29, 2015

Silence Is Golden at Bali’s Silent Retreat

Tabanan, Bali. At a time when life is more fast-paced than ever, where everything demands to be attended at once, it is refreshing at times to just switch off and go inward to listen to the one that needs attention the most — ourselves.

Located in Tabanan, about a one hour drive from Denpasar, the Bali Silent Retreat offers the perfect place to do so. As the name suggests, Bali Silent Retreat creates a safe haven to enjoy the art of silence and nothingness amidst the scenic view in the slopes of Mouth Batu Karu.

Reading a book in silence at
the common lounge
Set in an ashram style, the retreat provides a place of sanctuary for rejuvenation and restoration. Nestled amongst the lush rice paddies and dense tropical jungle at the back, the estate occupies massive four hectares piece of land in the quaint village of Mongan.

Accommodation varies and scattered across the land in between the vegetable & herb garden, meditation bale and labyrinth walk. The wooden bungalow at the front offers complete privacy and solitude, while the single rooms creates comfortable private spaces with an open back door view leading to the jungle.

And for those who enjoy the company of others, separate dormitories of eight for men and women are available. All buildings are constructed from recycled timbers in indigenous architectures that speak true to the retreat’s green principle.

Non-denominational and non-religious, there is no daily schedule of practice set in Bali Silent Retreat. No strict rituals or chanting to be done. Visitors are free to roam around, take part in yoga or daily meditation and venture into the labyrinth and jungle for personal meditation. Only one rule remains: all must be done in silence.

I woke up on my first day at the wee hours of 6 a.m. to take part in the morning meditation. Amidst the early morning fog, a majestic view of Mount Batu Karu on the horizon greets me. A golden mass of rice paddies ready to be harvested spread as far as my eyes can see. The local farmers start their work for the day. Our eyes met, and they smiled. This majestic view and this humble morning ritual itself is enough to bring serenity and calm into my mind.

Breathing deeply, I made my way cutting through the dense vegetation that embraces the retreat pathway into the Octagon Bale where the meditation takes place.

Shaped following the sacred geometry, the Octagon Bale is an open space that hosts the “regular” morning and evening yoga and meditation. Both activities are done under guidance of instructors and are targeted for beginners. Yoga varies from hatha yoga to creative flow yoga that aims to restore and rejuvenate. While meditation technique ranges from mindful meditation, contemplation, to chakra balancing to balance energy and spirit.

Further down the bale, an unusual set up of labyrinth is available for personal meditation. A highly personal experience, the labyrinth walking mediation is a chance to connect within, to ask questions and receive answers. The practice is found in just about every major religious tradition in the world and can be found in all over the world, including throughout Africa, South America, India, Europe, Indonesia, Egypt and North America.

The labyrinth in the Bali Silent Retreat is rather a small one of seven circuits and said to be the only labyrinth meditation available in Bali.

The retreat surrounded by ricefields
Surrounded by the lush greenery of the jungle garden, the labyrinth is cornered by eight piling, Each carries a massive crystal rock on top, while the gate hosts another crystal for vibrational balancing. Upon entering the labyrinth, the meditation begins by following the path; being mindful in each step and feeling each sensation as the feet touch the wet grass and depending on your belief, you can also say a prayer or mantra.

An ancient practice, the labyrinth meditation is said to induce receptive states of consciousness. When you walk a labyrinth, you meander back and forth, turning 180 degrees each time you enter a different circuit. As you shift your direction, awareness is also shifted from right brain to left brain which induces heightened consciousness.

Perhaps, it’s the lush trees, perhaps it’s the fresh open air, but I do feel a sense of freedom as I reached the inner center of the labyrinth and decided to stay there to just soak all the feelings.

And for more restful contemplation, participants can also opt to walk the jungle path that leads the way to the actual village jungle (and with the risk and the thrill of a jungle, including encountering spiders and rat snakes). Another more convenient option would be to join the impromptu rice paddy walk or garden jungle tours that happen serendipitously depending on the availability of the volunteers. These events provide not only the chance to gain more knowledge about the retreat, the village and culture of Bali, but also chance to break the silence for a bit. During these walks, participants are allowed to engage in conversation and ask question to the tour leader as long as it take place outside the retreat compound.

A garden tour provides a great way to understand how the retreat operates. Though resort-like, the retreat is not-for-profit and employs green-measures to the extreme.

“The planet has taken care of us, and thus we need to take care of the planet,” Patricia Miklautsch, the founder of Bali Silent Retreat, said on the philosophy. Together with Sangtu, a Balinese naturalist and co-founder of the retreat, they ensure every component of the retreat employs the most sustainable system as possible.

“All the electricity is generated from solar panel, while the water is derived from water distilling or from the spring. And all the vegetables and herbs are coming from our very own garden jungle. They are being harvested and consumed within three hours, so they’re always fresh,” explained Sangtu. “In a sense, it’s a also a meditation in itself; to know where it comes from and to be conscious on your consumption, be it electricity or food.”

Food is indeed an integral part and one of the major factors which keep the visitors silent in awe. In a garden-to-table style, head chef Simon Jongenotter, along with the five kitchen angels prepare daily buffet of vegetarian lunch and dinner. A practitioner of slow food and conscious eating, Jongenotter introduces “new earth cooking” as a food philosophy in the retreat which entails taking responsibility for sourcing, preparing and eating food in unique and healthy ways. The philosophy is translated into vibrant and healthy meals that keep the guests dedicated in their silence as they keep munching and munching.

Eleonora, a guest from Netherlands shared her experienced: “I loved the peace and quiet combined with yoga and meditation and the food — loved the food; so much variation and never a ‘dull’ meal. My mind is so much more calm and clear, now and the wonderful nature filled my heart with happiness.”

Just like Eleonora, given the absence of distraction, I found myself eating and walking more slowly, noticing the simple movement as the birds flying around which I usually don’t do. And after the third day, it’s apparent that the life in silence is all round rewarding and I began to wish it could last forever.

“That is what happens. People come here, originally for one or two days, and they extend. What I wish is for more people to open their heart to the retreat by making it affordable,” Patricia said smiling.

The saying goes “only in silence can you hear yourself.” In the Bali Silent Retreat, I heard wind gushing, cicada’s singing and birds chirping, and  there, I found peace.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Vatican signs first accord with Palestine, making recognition of state official

The Vatican has signed its first accord with Palestine, legally recognizing it as a state. The Holy See said it hopes the agreement will lead to improved relations in the Middle East although Israel expressed regret.

Deutsche Welle, 27 June 2015

Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher and his Palestinian counterpart, Riad al-Malki, signed the treaty at a ceremony inside the Vatican on Friday.

The treaty covers the life and the activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine. It is the first accord since the Vatican recognized the Palestinian state in February 2013, and marks the Vatican's first legal recognition of Palestine.

Gallagher said he hoped the Vatican's recognition "may in some way be a stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties."

The Vatican had welcomed the decision by the UN General Assembly in 2012 to recognize a Palestinian state.

Calling the agreement "historic," al-Malki said it marked "a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, freedom and dignity in an independent state of their own, free from the shackles of occupation."

Israel complains

The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed "regret" at the Vatican's decision. Israel called the accord "a hasty step (that) damages the prospects for advancing a peace agreement."
Both the United States and Israel oppose recognizing the Palestinian state. They say that it undermines US-led efforts to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian deal on the terms of Palestinian statehood.

Israel also said it could have implications on its future diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

But Gallagher called for peace negotiations to resume between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution. "This certainly requires courageous decisions, but it will also offer a major contribution to peace and stability in the region," he said.

jm/bk (dpa, Reuters, AP)

Pope Francis welcomes Palestinian authority President Mahmud Abbas during
a private audience at the Vatican on May 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Alberto Pizzoli)

Related Articles:

Pope Francis canonises 19th-century Palestinian nuns
Vatican officially recognizes state of Palestine in a new treaty

Castro at Vatican thanks pope for mediating thaw with US

"Not Your Father's New Age" - Feb 14/15, 2015 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) (Text version)

".. Everything that has transpired during these years has been realized potential. That is to say that we see the potentials of what you might do, and report on that and only that. Much of what we see now is realized quickly. When we told you in 2012 there would be a new pope, 13 months later it happened. This was not prophecy, but rather a potential. We saw it coming because we have the overview and we knew of the anxiety of the existing pope, the health of the man, and we also knew of the potentials of a South American pope to come forward. All of these things should be a "connect the dots" for you. I come yet again, not with prophecy, but with information given with a congratulatory attitude of potential. ..."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

India bends it like Modi on first World Yoga Day

Yahoo - AFP, Annie Banerji, 21 June 2015

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) participates in a mass yoga session 
along with other yoga practitioners to mark International Yoga Day on Rajpath 
Avenue in New Delhi on June 21, 2015 (AFP Photo/Prakash Singh)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday hailed the first International Yoga Day as a "new era of peace", moments before he surprised thousands in New Delhi by taking to a mat himself to celebrate the ancient Indian practice.

Yoga-loving Modi led more than 35,000 people, including bureaucrats, students and soldiers, performing poses such as the half camel and cobra in a 35-minute mass outdoor yoga session beginning at 7:00 am (0130 GMT) on a New Delhi boulevard.

Organisers are hoping the event qualifies for the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest yoga class at a single venue.

People take part in a mass yoga session
 to mark International Yoga Day on 
Rajpath in New Delhi on June 21, 2015 
(AFP Photo/Prakash Singh)
The current title, according to the Guinness website, was set by 29,973 students in Gwalior, India, in 2005.

"Yoga is more than only physical fitness. We are not only celebrating a day but we are training the human mind to begin a new era of peace," Modi told the crowd at Rajpath avenue.

He thanked the United Nations and the 177 co-sponsoring countries for adopting his idea for a world Yoga Day.

"This is a programme for human welfare, a tension-free world and a programme to spread the message of love, peace and goodwill," said the premier, wearing a crisp white outfit with a national tricolour scarf.

Modi then surprised the crowds by leaving the stage, removing his glasses, and securing a spot at the front of the massive session to mirror the stretches, breathing, and meditative moves beamed on giant screens along the historic avenue.

He took a brief break in the middle of the session to walk around and inspect students doing yoga around him before rejoining the routine of 15 different poses, including the crocodile and "wind-releasing" posture.

The prime minister, who credits yoga for his ability to work long hours on little sleep, had been scheduled only to make a speech at Rajpath, where colourful mats were lined across the stretch that connects the president's palace with the iconic India Gate monument.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) gives instructions as yoga practitioners
 take part in a mass yoga session to mark International Yoga Day on Rajpath in
New Delhi on June 21, 2015 (AFP Photo/Prakash Singh)

Sea of white

Aerial images taken near dawn showed Rajpath, or King's Avenue, as a sea of white with scores of people, clad in new Yoga Day T-shirts, bending and stretching in sync with the English and Hindi instructions to a background score of Indian classical music being played over loudspeakers.

Central Delhi was sealed off and carpeted, with dozens of metal detectors and multiple checkpoints erected for the big day that saw other VIPs including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal participate.

People in 650 districts joined in, with pictures pouring in on Twitter from across the country.

Some showed soldiers performing various yoga poses -- or asanas -- against a backdrop of soaring snow mountains at Siachen glacier, the world's highest battleground, in disputed Indian Kashmir while others showed residents stretching it out in local parks.

India will be joined by yoga enthusiasts in 192 other countries -- including in Britain, where mats will be rolled out along the banks of the River Thames.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (front L) participates in a mass yoga 
session along with other yoga practitioners to mark International Yoga Day on
Rajpath in New Delhi on June 21, 2015 (AFP Photo/Prakash Singh)

In his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly, Modi proposed to dedicate a day devoted to the ancient Indian discipline, prompting the UN to proclaim June 21 as the International Day of Yoga.

Indian scholars believe yoga dates back 5,000 years, based on archaeological evidence of poses found inscribed on stones and references to Yogic teachings in the ancient Hindu scriptures of the Vedas.

And Modi, a vegetarian who practises the art daily, has made Yoga Day a key initiative of his Hindu nationalist government since he took office 13 months ago.

He wants to reclaim yoga as an historical part of Indian culture which has been lost to the West, where it has become a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Since storming to power, the Hindu nationalist premier has set up a ministry dedicated to promoting yoga and other traditional Indian treatments, and also started free yoga classes for his government's three million bureaucrats and their families.

"Yoga is the soft power of India and through that soft power the whole world can be one global village... (and) violence can be removed with this kind of peace," Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has told reporters.

Guinness World Recocrds Representative Marco Frigatti (2nd L) speaks with a 
yoga practitioner as attendees prepare to participate in a mass yoga session to
 mark International Yoga Day on Rajpath Avenue in New Delhi on June 21, 2015 
(AFP Photo/Prakash Singh)

Swaraj is at the UN's headquarters in New York for Yoga Day, when scores are expected to strike a pose in Times Square.

But the government's push for "yoga for harmony and peace" met with criticism in the run-up to Sunday, with some religious minorities accusing Modi of pushing a pro-Hindu agenda in officially secular India.

A few Muslim groups have complained that chanting the sacred Hindu sound of "Om" during yoga and certain poses, such as "surya namaskar" or sun salutation, have clear Hindu overtones and were against Islam.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon(C) takes part in a special event celebrating
the first International Day of Yoga on June 21, 2015 at UN headquarters in
New York (AFP Photo/Mark Garten)

Related Articles:

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration LecturesGod / CreatorReligions/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)

“.   New Tolerance

Look for a softening of finger pointing and an awakening of new tolerance. There will remain many systems for different cultures, as traditions and history are important to sustaining the integrity of culture. So there are many in the Middle East who would follow the prophet and they will continue, but with an increase of awareness. It will be the increase of awareness of what the prophet really wanted all along - unity and tolerance. The angel in the cave instructed him to "unify the tribes and give them the God of Israel." You're going to start seeing a softening of intolerance and the beginning of a new way of being.

Eventually, this will create an acknowledgement that says, "You may not believe the way we believe, but we honor you and your God. We honor our prophet and we will love you according to his teachings. We don't have to agree in order to love." How would you like that? The earth is not going to turn into one belief system. It never will, for Humans don't do that. There must be variety, and there must be the beauty of cultural differences. But the systems will slowly update themselves with increased awareness of the truth of a new kind of balance. So that's the first thing. Watch for these changes, dear ones. ...."

Indonesian NGO Says Donation-Funded Hospital in Gaza Ready for President Joko to Launch

Jakarta Globe, Herman Genie, Jun 20, 2015

President Joko Widodo has shown his strong support for the hospital, dubbed
 Indonesia Hospital, and plans to officiate the opening ceremony. (Antara Photo/
Andika Wahyu)

Jakarta. An Indonesian humanitarian group in Palestine has said their donation-funded hospital is ready for operation and expects President Joko Widodo himself to launch the health center.

Hendry Hidayatullah, chairman of the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C), said on Friday that the group had signed on Monday an MoU with Palestine’s Health Ministry for the hospital, dubbed the Indonesia Hospital, which aims to provide medical services to the local residents in the conflict-ridden Gaza strip.

“The Indonesia Hospital is now ready for use, although there still some equipment that needs to be installed,” Hendry said on Friday.

“The Palestine Health Ministry have also readied local human resources who will be on duty and also to train people to operate the medical equipment,” he added.

According to Hendry, the hospital cost some Rp 120 billion ($9 million) which was wholly donated by the people of Indonesia, adding that the medical center was also designed by Indonesian volunteers in Palestine.

“This is the biggest hospital in Gaza built by the people of Indonesia — without government funds nor people from other countries,” Hendry said. “This proves that Indonesians’ sense for humanity is very high.”

According to Hendry, the group spoke with the president on June 17 where Joko said he admired the support that have been given by the Indonesian public in founding the hospital.

“The president also said that he would like to officiate the Indonesia Hospital in the Gaza Strip,” said Hendry. “Hopefully, [the launch] will be soon. We’re still matching it with the president’s schedule.”

Located in Beit Lahia — a city in the Gaza Strip north of Jabalia, near Beit Hanoun and the 1949 Armistice Line with Israel — the Indonesia Hospital covers some 16,261 square meters land. The health center, which is for traumatology and rehabilitation, has two levels and a basement; four surgery rooms; and a capacity of 100 bedrooms and 10 intensive care unit (ICU) rooms.

The hospital, which saw its first construction activity in May 2011, also features a laboratory, radiology room, blood bank and physiotherapy room.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rights Activists Pan Court Ruling Refusing to Sanction Interfaith Marriages

Jakarta Globe, Kennial Laia, Basten Gokkon & Erwin Sihombing, Jun 19, 2015

Couples of different religions will still not have their marriages officially sanctioned
 after the Constitutional Court rejected a judicial review of the1974 Marriage Law.
(JG Photo/Fajrin Raharjo)

Jakarta. Human rights activists have lambasted the Constitutional Court for rejecting a judicial review calling for official recognition of interfaith marriages, saying the ruling failed to protect the rights of those wishing to marry someone of a different religion.

Poengky Indarti, the executive director of the rights watchdog Imparsial, said that with the ruling handed down on Thursday, the government would continue to have free rein in interfering with individual privacy. She said that by not granting the judicial review of the 1974 Marriage Law, the court had deprived mixed-faith couples of the right to have their union sanctioned by the state.

“The marriage law should have been formulated to provide a solution for couples with cultural and religious differences, and even different citizenships,” Poengky told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.

“The country shouldn’t limit its citizens’ choice to marry based on a religion sanctioned by the state. With this rejection, the government will continue to not accommodate interfaith marriage. The government will not legitimize the rights of those who want to marry a partner from a different religious background. This is not fair,” Poengky said.

She said many couples were compelled not to marry, or to undergo often disingenuous religious conversions in order to register their marriage with the government’s Religious Affairs Office. Others who can afford to choose to get married overseas and then have their foreign marriage certificate notarized once they get back.

Hendardi, the chairman of the Setara Institute, a rights and democracy watchdog, called Thursday’s ruliing discriminatory and said other means must be found to ease the burden of interfaith couples who face difficulty trying ti register their marriage with the state.

“Because the country has refused to legalize interfaith marriage, there should be other mechanisms that can make it possible. Otherwhise people will continue to be discriminated against in this regard,” he said.

De facto ban

The ruling was the culmination of a judicial review process begun last year when a group of five petitioners sought to challenge Article 2 of the 1974 Marriage Law, which states that a marriage is only considered legitimate by the state if conducted according to the religious traditions and beliefs of the bride and groom.

The article has long been considered a de facto, if not explicit, ban on interfaith marriages, given that wedding rites vary among different religious beliefs, thus making it impossible for a mixed-faith couple to fulfill the requirement of the article.

The Constitutional Court, however, ruled that the article should stand.

“The court rules that the petitioners’ request does not have a legal basis and therefore rejects the appeal for a judicial review,” Chief Justice Arief Hidayat said.

The court did not consider the clause that effectively outlaws interfaith marriage a violation of the Constitution, Arief said, because marriage does not only include formal aspects, but also “spiritual and social” aspects.

The court stated that religion was an important platform for individuals and communities when they establish a marriage, and that the state must provide legal certainty and protection for nuptials.

The court also rejected the petitioners’ request to raise the legal age for marriage to 18 years from 16 at present, based on recommendations from the Women’s Health Foundation (YKP) and the Child Rights Monitoring Foundation (YPHA).

The court said that raising the legal age for a marriage would not guarantee a decrease in the number of women potentially at risk of reproductive health problems, adding that the law as it stood already took into consideration all health, social and financial aspects when stipulating a minimum age of 16.

The petitioners had argued that the current legal age also violated girls’ right to complete their education and could lead to a higher maternal mortality rate. Indonesia already has the highest maternal mortality rate in Southeast Asia.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) welcomed the ruling as “in line with all religions.”

“Besides, there’s no religion that encourages its congregation to mary a person of a different faith,” MUI secretary general Tengku Zulkarnain said on Friday as quoted by Republika Online.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rohingya hope for peaceful Ramadan in Indonesia

Yahoo – AFP, Nurdin Hasan, 18 June 2015

Rohingya women are seen standing at a confinement area in Kuala Cangkoi,
Indonesia's Aceh province (AFP Photo/Chaideer Mahyuddin)

Muhammad Yunus came ashore in Indonesia by accident after a harrowing boat journey -- but he and hundreds of other Rohingya migrants are delighted to be spending Islam's holiest month in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

The boat people in Aceh province are among thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants who arrived in countries across Southeast Asia in May after a Thai crackdown threw the people-smuggling trade into chaos and sparked a regional crisis.

Yunus had hoped to reach relatively affluent Malaysia, like many of the region's migrants, but after a months-long voyage was dumped in shallow waters off Aceh.

A Rohingya migrant is seen sweeping
 the floor of a shelter in Kuala Cangkoi,
 Indonesia's Aceh province (AFP Photo/
Chaideer Mahyuddin)
He is nevertheless relieved to have washed up in Indonesia -- particularly in time for Ramadan, which starts on Thursday -- and be far from his native Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country where the Rohingya have long faced discrimination and are denied citizenship.

"Praise be to God, we were saved and brought to a Muslim country," said the 35-year-old religious education teacher, who was rescued off the coast of Aceh on May 10 with around 580 other migrants.

"The people here are very kind and have helped us, they see Rohingya refugees as their brothers."

Others, such as 16-year-old Muhammad Shorif, who fled a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh where he had lived with his family, echoed his sentiments.

"I miss mother's cooking in the refugee camp," he said, but added he was "very happy" to be in Aceh for Ramadan, when Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset.

Ramadan will be a busy time for Yunus, who left Myanmar in 2012 when his Islamic school was destroyed during fierce communal violence between local Buddhists and Rohingya, as he acts as prayer leader for the Rohingya in the camps.

He said that at the time he fled, it was impossible for Muslims to worship in peace, with mosques being razed to the ground and security forces stopping them from performing prayers.

Yunus spent several years at a camp in Bangladesh but got on a boat earlier this year in an attempt to escape the pitiful conditions there.

Rohingya migrant is seen walking past
 the UNHCR flag at a confinement area
 in Kuala Cangkoi, Indonesia's Aceh
 province (AFP Photo/Chaideer
Acehnese also suffered

A resident of Sittwe, the capital of Myanmar's Rakhine state where persecuted Rohingya have fled in droves, told AFP there were no restrictions imposed by local authorities this year during Ramadan, and local Muslims could worship in mosques.

Nevertheless, the situation has long been tense, with many Muslims in the city living segregated under armed guard.

It is a starkly different picture in Aceh, where people have flocked to give donations of food and money to the new arrivals and are planning to bring them delicacies to break fast during Ramadan, which ends with the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Many in the area sympathise with the Rohingya's plight because of their own painful recent history -- Aceh was left in ruins by a decades-long separatist conflict, which only ended when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hit the province, leaving more than 170,000 dead in Indonesia alone.

"During the conflict in the past, we endured suffering. But there are Rohingya who have had worse experiences than people in Aceh," said Syamsuddin Muhammad, a 55-year-old fisherman who came to the migrant camp to donate money collected by his village.

The Acehnese are also trying to improve the migrants' living conditions.

At first they were given shelter in a sports centre before being moved to shabby buildings in the fishing town of Kuala Cangkoi, and this week they were taken to a village inland, where they are being housed in better buildings.

A Rohingya migrant plays with a child at a shelter in Kuala Cangkoi,
Indonesia's Aceh province (AFP Photo/Chaideer Mahyuddin)

Since coming ashore emaciated and filthy after months at sea, many of the migrants appear to be recovering swiftly.

Images of one desperate group in a green wooden boat off Thailand shocked the world -- but AFP tracked some of them down last month at a camp in another part of Aceh, where they had eventually arrived, and found many relaxed, dressed in fresh clothes and less gaunt and emaciated.

Despite the migrants' immediate relief at having made it to a welcoming nation, they are likely to be living in limbo for years as few countries are willing to resettle migrants, including those who have genuine refugee status, and there are a huge number waiting for resettlement.

Many end up living a half-life in the shadows, eking out a living in the informal sector, far from their loved ones.

Even Yunus, who is happy to have ended up in Aceh, longs for his family back in Myanmar during Islam's holiest month.

"I miss my wife and children," he said, struggling to hold back tears.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Unbearable Irreversibility of the Death Penalty

A global trend away from the use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses means countries that do carry out executions are on the extreme fringe, a minority on the world stage

Supporters of Australians on death row in Indonesia Andrew Chan and Myuran
 Sukumaran light candles during a vigil at Martin Place in Sydney on April 28,
2015. The two were executed by firing squad hours later. (AFP Photo/Saeed Khan)

Kuala Lumpur. Chen Chin-Hsien walked up on stage and introduced himself before the audience: a civil court judge in Taiwan for the past four and a half years, and before that serving on the bench in juvenile and criminal courts.

“Twenty-one years ago,” he declared, “I believed firmly in retribution and the death penalty.”

But everything changed when, during a public discussion on judicial issues several years ago, a young woman asked him, “What if some day one of the defendants you have sentenced to death is found to be wrongfully convicted? What would you do?”

It was the first time anyone had brought up the possibility to him, Chen went on in his speech in Kuala Lumpur last week.

“I looked at her for a long time and I couldn’t answer her. Eventually I said, ‘I don’t really know. Maybe quit my job.’”

It was a possibility that, mercifully, Chen never had to face. One of the rare cases he heard in which the death penalty was prescribed involved a mentally ill young man on trial for slitting a child’s throat in an arcade.

Given the defendant’s mental condition, the panel of three judges, Chen among them, chose not to hand down the death penalty — and immediately drew condemnation from the press and society.

“This was no surprise. But the surprising thing was that we were also attacked so hard by our fellow judges. No judge supported our verdict. There are not many judges in Taiwan brave enough to resist such pressure,” Chen said.

He acknowledged the long tradition of martial justice in Chinese society, but argued that in the modern age, the death penalty is primitive and cruel.

Tide is turning

Chen was speaking at a congress hosted last week by the organization Together Against the Death Penalty/Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM) and the Anti-Death Penalty Asian Network (ADPAN). The ECPM has organized similar congresses on the abolition of the death penalty, but the Kuala Lumpur event was the first to be held in Asia, and served to highlight the use of the death penalty in the region, mostly for drug-related offenses.

Indonesia was, until 2012, among a growing number of countries exercising a de factor moratorium on the use of the death penalty. All that changed this year with the execution of 14 people, 12 of them foreigners, for drug-related offenses, drawing widespread criticism and riling diplomatic ties.

But the more than 300 delegates at the ECPM congress also heard about how the problem was not limited just to Indonesia: Singapore maintains a mandatory death sentence for drug-trafficking.

Malaysia also prescribes death for trafficking, but the tide is turning in that country, says Steven Thiru, the president of the Malaysian Bar Association.

The association has repeatedly passed resolutions at its annual meetings calling for the abolition of the death penalty, and while the government has never acquiesced, the public is increasingly in support of ending capital punishment. An opinion poll conducted in 2013 by the bar association and the Death Penalty Project, a leading human rights organization based in the Britain, found that the majority of the Malaysian public surveyed did not support the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, murder or firearm offenses.

Thiru said there were no more barriers to abolishing the death penalty in the country. “It is up to the government and the legislators to drive the conversation forward. If they lead, the public will follow,” he said.

Debunking the myth

In the wider context, the position maintained by law enforcement in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia is increasingly a marginal one. Six Asian countries — Nepal, Bhutan, Philippines, Cambodia, Timor Leste and Mongolia — have already abolished the death penalty from their statutes.

Brunei, Myanmar and South Korea are abolitionists in practice, meaning they still retain the death penalty in their legislation but have not carried out any executions for some time.

Only 25 countries in Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and the Middle East routinely carry out executions, said Raphaël Chenuil Hazan, the executive director of the ECPM.

“This trend debunks the myth that abolishing the death sentence is a Western value,” Hazan said.

Britain-based Harm Reduction International goes deeper in its report “The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2012.”

The report identifies 49 countries in the Asia and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region as “retentionist,” or having the death penalty on their statutes; of these, only 13 carry out executions, and only five do so regularly.

Of the 92 retentionist countries and territories worldwide, a third prescribe the death penalty for drug-related offenses; only one in seven actively execute drug offenders, and only one in 18 do so with any regularity or in any great number.

That means that countries that do carry out death sentences are on the extreme fringe, a minority on the global stage.

Avoiding the real issues

Rick Lines, the executive director of HRI, said the decision to carry out death sentences was not a cultural, social or regional trend, but instead a mere political choice, which is what he saw happen in Indonesia, which went from two executions in the last five years to 13 in the last five months.

The fact that most of those executed were foreigners played to the narrative of drugs as a foreign threat, which Lines said was merely a way for the authorities to avoid dealing with developing health or harm reduction policies and therapies to treat people living with drug abuse domestically.

Julian McMahon, a lawyer for the late Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Australians executed in Indonesia on April 29, refuted the Indonesian government’s insistence that the death penalty served as an effective deterrent against the drug trade.

“The drug kingpins move drugs by the tons. It’s laughable to think that by executing these two boys, it will deter consumption or distribution of drugs in Indonesia. Nobody is talking about the distribution or the making of drugs already happening inside Indonesia,” he said.

McMahon, who usually avoids giving out personal stories to the media because they tend to divert attention from the actual legal work being done by his office, made a rare exception at the congress in Kuala Lumpur.

“When I first met those boys in 2006, they were ordinary punk criminals,” he said.

“But they became poster boys for what the prison reform system could be. They turned the prison around into a safe learning space.”

He also shared his story of spending time with Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina drug mule who was also slated to be executed with the others, and her two sons, all of them believing that it was the end.

“She held her two boys, thinking it would be for the last time. She sang to them, the boys sang to me, I gave them chocolate,” McMahon said.

When the shots rang out on the Central Java prison island of Nusakambangan, the grief of the Veloso family was immense. They were convinced she had been shot, only to be notified later that she had been granted a last-minute reprieve.

“And to think she’s going to face all of this again is just inhumane,” McMahon said.

He said what upset him the most about the Indonesian government’s approach to the issue was that there was no pretense whatsoever that President Joko Widodo had read the pleas for clemency: It was simply decided that 64 people must die, even though many of them, Chan and Sukumaran among them, still had appeals pending.

The Australians’ appeal hearing was scheduled for May 12; they were shot dead less than two weeks before their court date.

“There is no country in the world that deployed more energy, money and diplomats to get their citizens out of death row than Indonesia. And they do so in the most praiseworthy way,” McMahon said.

“So imagine my disappointment when all my legal efforts were met with the simple argument of trying to interfere with the sovereignty of another country.”

For the lawyer, the bitter experience of the Chan and Sukumaran case is the exact scenario that Chen, the Taiwanese judge, has always dreaded.

“Criminal judgment is not just about retribution, but also about a settlement between society and the defendant. In the rehabilitation process, society can embrace this defendant, or the defendant can embrace society again,” Chen said.

Minister’s Call for Mutual Respect During Ramadan Elicits Conservative Backlash

Jakarta Globe, Jun 16, 2015

Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin’s call for Muslims who plan to fast
 during Ramadan to respect those not fasting has come under attack from
Islamic conservatives. (Antara Photo/ Fabianus Riyan Adhitama)

Jakarta. Conservative politicians and clerics have lashed out at Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin over his seemingly benign call for mutual respect and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

Fernita Darwis, a senior member of a splinter faction of Lukman’s own party, the United Development Party (PPP), said the minister’s appeal to Muslims not to force food vendors to close during Ramadan, which starts this week, had “hurt the faithful and had a [negative] impact on the PPP.”

“We’ve had a lot of messages from clerics asking us to address this issue,” she said. “The minister must immediately cease taking positions that hurt the Muslim faithful and cause negative stigma in the community.”

Lukman, in a Twitter message on June 5, urged followers not to compel streetside food stalls, or warung, to close during Ramadan, when Muslims are obliged to fast during daylight hours.

“We have to respect the rights of those who are not required to or are not fasting,” he wrote.

In a series of follow-up tweets three days later, the minister sought to clarify his earlier remark.

“There were two things that I wanted to get across with that tweet. First, there is no need to force any warung to close during the fasting month,” he wrote.

“If there are those who close their warung voluntarily, we of course respect that. But good Muslims don’t force others to give up their source of livelihood.”

The second point, Lukman went on, was the need for mutual respect and understanding for those who were not fasting.

“We are obliged to respect the right (to access to food/drink) of those who are not fasting because they are not Muslim,” he wrote.

“We must also respect the right of Muslims who are not fasting because of [certain] conditions (traveling, illness, menstruating, pregnant, nursing).”

Lukman, who took office in June last year, has earned a reputation as being far more progressive and inclusive than his predecessors – a distinction that has drawn criticism from conservatives.

Khatibul Umam Wiranu, a member of the Democratic Party, accused Lukman of trying to curry popular support through the media through statements like his call for mutual respect.

“The way I see it, Lukman is frightened of being replaced in a reshuffle. And the only thing he can do is use the media to build up his popularity,” Khatibul said. “His performance, meanwhile, has been very unsatisfactory.”

Jazuli Jawani, a legislator from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said Lukman’s call for those who were fasting to respect those who were not was highly regrettable.

“His statement is just going to cause problems. He shouldn’t be stirring up a row in the community,” he said.

Jazuli argued that it was only natural for those “carrying out the faith” to be granted greater respect than those who were not.

“The minister’s logic is backward and he’s giving the impression that he doesn’t understand how to promote tolerance,” he said.

“When Muslims are fasting, it’s customary for followers of other religions or for Muslims who are not fasting to pay them their due respect.”

Clerics have also piled in on the issue, with one writing off the minister’s statement as “nonsense.”

“Why should the majority respect the minority?” Ali Badri Zaini, the head of the East Java chapter of the Islamic Dakwah Forum, said in Surabaya as quoted by

“The minority should respect the majority. The minister is [talking] nonsense. The Islamic faithful in East Java will never do as he instructs.”

He said it was considered customary for all warung to at least close off their façade with a tarp so as not to tempt those who were fasting.

“If this rule is overturned by the minister, then it underlines that the minister is taking sides,” Zaini said.

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“.   New Tolerance

Look for a softening of finger pointing and an awakening of new tolerance. There will remain many systems for different cultures, as traditions and history are important to sustaining the integrity of culture. So there are many in the Middle East who would follow the prophet and they will continue, but with an increase of awareness. It will be the increase of awareness of what the prophet really wanted all along - unity and tolerance. The angel in the cave instructed him to "unify the tribes and give them the God of Israel." You're going to start seeing a softening of intolerance and the beginning of a new way of being.

Eventually, this will create an acknowledgement that says, "You may not believe the way we believe, but we honor you and your God. We honor our prophet and we will love you according to his teachings. We don't have to agree in order to love." How would you like that? The earth is not going to turn into one belief system. It never will, for Humans don't do that. There must be variety, and there must be the beauty of cultural differences. But the systems will slowly update themselves with increased awareness of the truth of a new kind of balance. So that's the first thing. Watch for these changes, dear ones. ...."