ASIA/INDONESIA - The Christian Ahok set free, "but his figure polarizes public opinion"

Friday, 25 January 2019 human rights   blasphemy   politics   islam  

Jakarta (Agenzia Fides) - "After the release, it is likely that Ahok will go abroad for a few months, at least until after the general elections in April. It is a careful move, because his figure is still much discussed and capable of polarizing people. This would not help the current election campaign". This is how Jesuit Ignazio Ismartono, former Coordinator of Humanitarian and Interreligious Affairs of the Episcopal Conference, today engaged in the fight against the trafficking of human beings in Jakarta, comments the release from prison of the former governor of Jakarta, the Christian Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, called "Ahok" to Agenzia Fides.
The man was arrested in December 2016 on blasphemy charges against Islam. He served almost a two-year sentence in prison in Depok, West Java and was released yesterday, January 24. "Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in past days expressed the desire to no longer be called with the Chinese nickname, Ahok, especially on the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, when the apostle changed his name. Is it a sign?", observes Fr. Ismartono.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Purnama's political ally, expressed his satisfaction, saying that "it is up to him to reorganize his future life". Purnama, a Protestant Christian, served as governor of Jakarta, after a another non-Muslim, the Catholic Henk Ngantung, had been governor, in 1964-1965.
In the city of Jakarta, his administration was praised by Muslim and Christian voters for the public services provided to the population such as transport, infrastructure, green areas. His accusation for blasphemy created strong divisions and tensions in the Indonesian public opinion and the story underwent strong religious exploitation in the political area. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 25/1/2019)