CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 12 January 2019

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Cross desecration condemned

YOGYAKARTA (UCAN): The Archdiocese of Semarang, Indonesia, condemned the removal of the upper part of a burial cross for deceased before he could be buried in a public cemetery in Yogjakarta.
 
A December 19 statement, called the incident “a violation of the constitution that contradicts the state’s ideology of Pancasila” which respects diversity.
 
The case has gone viral on social media and sparked outrage among Catholics and rights advocates.
 
The row centred around the burial of Albertus Slamet Sugihardi, a parishioner of St. Paul Church in Pringgolayan, Yogjakarta.
 
Semarang Archdiocese’s Commission for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, reported that the upper part of Sugihardi’s burial cross was cut off before burial was allowed on December 17 because Muslim groups claimed the cemetery was a special one for Muslims.
 
While Muslim groups claimed the cross cutting was carried out with the approval of the dead man’s family, the commission said Sugihardi’s wife was forced to sign an approval letter drafted by local officials after the event took place in a bid to calm the storm that broke after the incident was reported on social media. 
 
Agus Sumartoyo, head of the commission’s investigative team said, “The duty of the apparatus is to protect those who are weak and not to pressure them so they budge to create pseudo harmony.”
 
Agustinus Sunarto, a local advocate, also accused local residents of preventing a wake from being held at Sugihardi’s home. Instead, prayers had to be said in the parish church.
 
Soleh Rahmad Hidayat, a local community leader, said the impromptu ban on Christian symbols was demanded by residents, who wanted to make the cemetery exclusive for Muslims.
 
Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Bishops’ Commission for the Laity called the affair another example of “growing and deepening religious intolerance” in Indonesia.
 
“The government needs to address the issue immediately, before it spirals out of control,” he said.
 
Alissa Wahid, national coordinator of the Gusdurian Network, a group advocating freedom of religion, said the incident demonstrated that majoritarianism was gaining strength in Indonesia.
 
In this case “the majority (Muslims) feel that they are the ones to determine everything and the minority must respect them,” she said.
 
Tjahjo Kumolo, minister of the Interior, has ordered the local authorities to immediately rectify matters.

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