ASIA/INDONESIA - General elections 2009: Christian presence in politics expected

Yakarta (Agenzia Fides) - The democratic process in Indonesia continues to make progress, albeit slowly and in the midst of many different obstacles. The Islamic country with the most population (over 220 million people, 85% Muslim) is at the beginning of its democratic status, following the fall of its former dictator Suharto in 1998. After ten years that could be seen as the first leg of their journey towards full democracy, legislative and administrative elections are being planned for April 5, 2009. The parties will only have until May 12 to register in order to enter the race. The Electoral Committee has stated that the list of eligible parties who will participate in the race will be revealed July 5. 154 million citizens will be eligible to vote in the elections next year, 4.5% more than in the presidential elections of 2004. Looking towards the upcoming elections of 2009, the Christians of Indonesia have been encouraged to take an active role in the country’s political life, promoting the values of unity, diversity, freedom, and human rights. That was what was explained in a recent congress sponsored by the Christian Communication Forum, entitled, “Christian Politics in the Context of the 2009 Elections.” The ecumenical association was founded in 1996 and also has Catholic members. Speakers in the congress focused on the importance of public commitment on behalf of Christians in building a better nation and to confront the ideology and fundamentalism that currently threaten the constitutional principles of Pancasila that form the basis of the peaceful relationship among the various ethnic and religious groups in Indonesia. Every citizen in the country should feel responsible for the effort since freedom and democracy are values and principles that effect all members of the society. As in past elections, the Catholic Church in Indonesia continues to call for honesty, respect for the dignity of the human person, interreligious dialogue, rejection of fundamentalism, a focus on social and economic development with equal opportunity, and a clear denunciation of the abuses and violations of religious freedom: for example, from 1994-2007, various Christian organizations have been forced to close their doors due to discrimination and violence from Islamic extremist groups. It is a situation that political leaders in Indonesia are being asked to resolve, offering concrete resolutions, ensuring security, and protecting the freedom of worship. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 8/4/2008; righe 30, parole 387)

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