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Officials caught stealing quake aid money

Jakarta (UCAN): Police in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, have arrested three officials of the local Religious Affairs Ministry for allegedly demanding kickbacks from funds to repair 58 mosques damaged during powerful earthquakes that hit the province in July and August last year.
 
The quakes killed at least 563 people and damaged thousands of buildings, including 630 mosques.
 
The three suspects allegedly demanded 20 per cent of US$426,000 ($3.3 million) set aside to fund the repair of 58 mosques.
 

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Bali bomb mastermind to walk free from jail

JAKARTA (UCAN): “This move is being seen by the public as political will, instead of goodwill. Why has this (pardon) been given directly ahead of the presidential election?” asked Al Chaidar, a terrorism expert from Malikussaleh University, Aceh province, reacting to news of the impending release of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the terror network leader behind the 2002 Bali bombings on compassionate grounds.
 

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Tsunami aftermath Indonesia

HONG KONG (SE): Authorities in Indonesia have raised the danger level for Mount Anak Krakatau in the Sunda Strait, following a devastating tsunami on December 22, which swept over the west coast of Java island and the south coast of Sumatra. 
 
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement on December 26 that 430 people are dead, 1,495 injured, 159 are missing and an estimated 22,000 displaced.
 

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No New Year celebrations in Aceh

JAKARTA (UCAN): Aminullah Usman, mayor of Banda Aceh, the provincial capital of Aceh, said on December 18 that letters have been sent out warning people “not to hold parties, set off fireworks, and blow horns” on New Year’s Eve.
 
“These practices are not in accordance with Islamic Shariah law,” he said, adding, “Muslims have their own special celebration, which is the Hijri New Year.” 
 
This year the Hijri New Year fell on September 11.
 

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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.
 

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Muslims offer help to Indonesia’s Catholic choristers

JAKARTA (UCAN): Muslims on the Moluccas Islands are offering their homes to thousands of Catholics participating in Indonesia’s first National Catholic Choir Festival if they need a place to stay, according to a prominent local Muslim leader.
 
More than 7,000 Catholics from all the country’s 34 provinces are descending on Ambon, the capital of Maluku province, to take part in the festival, or Pesparani, which begins on October 27.  
 

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Arrests in Instagram baby-selling ring case

JAKARTA (UCAN): Police in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, have made four arrests after breaking up an alleged baby-selling ring run from an Instagram account.
The account claimed to be linked to the Family Welfare Institute and a Facebook group called the Child Care Foundation, according to local media reports.
 
The account holder identified himself as “AP” and said he was a 29-year-old man helping find solutions to family problems.
 

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Anger over maids for sale ads in Singapore

JAKARTA (UCAN): Advocates campaigning for migrant worker rights have voiced outrage after an advert was recently posted on Carousell, a Singapore-based online marketplace showing the profiles of several female domestic workers believed to be Indonesian. Some profiles were even marked “sold.”
 
Nusron Wahid, head of an Indonesian government agency dealing with the placement and protection of migrant workers, told reporters on September 18 that an official letter had been sent to the Singaporean government demanding thorough investigation.

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Indonesian priest actively confronts human traffickers

JAKARTA (UCAN): Fighting human trafficking has become a daily routine over the past five years for Father Chrisanctus Paschalis Saturnus, from Indonesia’s Pangkal-Pinang Diocese.
 
Working in Batam— a transit hub for illegal workers in Riau Islands province, about 32 kilometres south of Singapore—makes human trafficking concerns part of the priest’s daily regimen. They are also the diocese’s main priority.
 

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Quake aid workers warned against proselytising

JAKARTA (UCAN): Indonesia’s religious affairs minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, warned volunteers from religious-based organisations offering aid to survivors of deadly earthquakes that recently struck the tourist island of Lombok, against proselytising. The region was hit by three powerful quakes on July 29, August 5, and August 19, killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands more.
 
The September 3 warning came after a video, purportedly showing aid workers allegedly proselytising among child survivors, went viral on social media.

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