By UCA News
Many regional officials from across Indonesia have committed to combatting a rise in intolerance and extremism.
Their commitment was made following a national conference in Jakarta on the importance of preventing sectarianism from marring elections for political office.
About 200 district and local officials, including mayors, participated along with civil society organizations.
The gathering was organized by the National Commission on Human Rights, the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) and the office of President Joko Widodo.
There was recognition that sectarianism was a significant factor in the defeat early this year of Chinese Christian Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, in his bid to be re-elected governor of Jakarta.
Ahok was accused by Islamic militants of blasphemy for challenging a claim that Muslims should only vote for other Muslims.
Sectarian tensions are likely to build further as the country holds provincial, regional, district and municipal elections in June 2018 and a presidential election in May 2019.
Rights activists called on officials at the lower levels of government not to rely on the central government to tackle extremism.
A rights activist, Holy Servant Sister Genobeba Amaral, welcomed the regional government officials’ commitment.
“I believe if they do something, society will follow,” she said.