US Commission Urges Obama to Raise Religious Freedoms in Indonesia

Posted November 16th, 2011 at 7:10 am (UTC-5)
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A U.S. government panel is urging President Barack Obama to address ongoing problems of religious freedom in Indonesia during his upcoming visit.

Leonard Leo, the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, sent a letter to the White House Monday highlighting a number of violent attacks that he said were carried out by religious extremists. They include a suicide bomb attack on a Protestant church in Central Java and a deadly attack on the minority Ahmadiyah Islamic sect.

Leo says a “culture of impunity” exists in some parts of Indonesia, where he says extremists harass places of worship, extort protection money from religious minorities and even pressure local officials to detain and restrict religious groups.

The commission chairman said Mr. Obama should see religious freedom in Indonesia as an interest “intertwined deeply” with U.S. security, economic and political interests in Indonesia. He urged the president to speak out publicly about why religious freedom protections are a critical element of bilateral relations and crucial to the development of “free, prosperous, and peaceful societies.”

Mr. Obama will travel to Indonesia later this week for a meeting of regional leaders at the East Asia Summit on the resort island of Bali.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan government commission mandated to monitor religious freedoms around the world and advise the president and congressional leaders.