Indonesian interfaith leaders stand up for Rohingya muslims

Surabaya, E. Java (ANTARA News) - Indonesian interfaith leaders will meet to discuss the serious problems faced by Rohingya Muslims in Arakan, Myanmar, according to the Secretary of Walubi (Indonesian Buddhists' representative), Philip Widjaja.

"We will discuss the issue at the MUI (Indonesian Ulema Council) Centre on August 3," he said here on Tuesday.

Dr Philip stated that he was invited by an MUI board member, Slamet Effendy Yusuf, who is also the chairman of NU (Nahdlatul Ulama, a traditionalist Sunni Islam group in Indonesia) to be part of the discussion.

"The relationship among religious groups in Indonesia is quite good. Even here there is FKUB (a forum on religious harmony). Our situation is very different from that of Myanmar where Rohingya Muslims are not considered to be the country's citizens," he explained.

Dr Philip noted that persecution on the basis of religion and ethnicity had been prevalent in Myanmar for years.

Therefore, the Indonesian religious leaders will soon meet with the Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, after holding the discussion at MUI Central Office.

"Din Syamsuddin [the chairman of Muhammadiyah], other Indonesian religious leaders, and I are going to Patani [home to the Muslim minority group in Southern Thailand]," Philip said, adding that the Thai government would facilitate the visit.

"We will visit Patani on September," he stated.

A number of Indonesian leaders have urged the Myanmar government to immediately stop the massacre and persecution of Rohingya Muslims. The leaders have also called on the ASEAN community and the Indonesian government to maximise efforts to stop the violence in Myanmar.

The Rohingya Muslims are settled mostly along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.

They have faced discrimination in Myanmar for a long time and the United Nations has classified them as one of the most persecuted ethnic communities in the world.

However, the Myanmar government considers Rohingya Muslims to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, while other communities in Myanmar regard them as enemies.

A riot occurred last month in Rakhine state, Myanmar, between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. Both groups claimed they were attacked. About 80 casualties have been reported so far and thousands of people have lost their homes, while many Rohingya Muslims have been arrested.(*)