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Progress on social harmony hailed in Indonesia

By LEO JEGHO in Jakarta | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-22 09:28
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People take pictures with a Santa Claus statue and a Christmas tree at the Fatahilah Museum in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec 20, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Indonesia has made progress in fostering a sense of unity among the country's ethnic groups, according to Dali Santun Naga, a professor at Jakarta's Tarumanagara University.

The academic's upbeat assessment reflects the prevailing views of the country's leaders. This was evident during the annual conference of Perhimpunan Tionghoa Indonesia, or INTI, an association of Chinese communities.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo chaired the online meeting, at which he praised the contribution of ethnic Chinese Indonesians to the task of national construction. He called on them to continue their efforts in order to secure a better future for the country.

The president said he hoped the association will maintain its position on the front line of efforts to preserve harmony and solidarity.

INTI Executive Chairman Indra Wahidin said the association will continue to encourage its members to do more for the country and the people.

Widodo called on the association to work further in promoting national unity and harmony, and asked the association to develop a partnership between its members and grassroots enterprises. The promotion of partnerships between large and small businesses has been a priority of the government, he said.

Indonesian Vice-President Ma'ruf Amin and Chief of the Indonesian National Police Listyo Sigit Prabowo were also among the speakers at the online meeting in Jakarta. A message from Moh Mahfud MD, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, was read out at Sunday's meeting, in which he assured the participants of the government's drive to maintain equal treatment before the law for all citizens.

Such reassurance from top officials will be well received by some minority groups in the country, including those of Chinese origin. A number of minority groups have suffered in the past as a result of discriminatory practices.

Waning sentiment

Naga told China Daily that unfriendly sentiment toward Chinese Indonesians has been steadily waning. The academic cited the issuance of a law in 2008 aimed at eliminating discrimination against minorities.

Mahfud said the association's decadeslong contribution to social harmony has been much appreciated. He also pointed to the efforts of other Chinese-Indonesian organizations like Paguyuban Sosial Marga Tionghoa Indonesia, or the Social Association of Chinese Indonesians.

They have helped many disadvantaged people, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wahidin said the association has provided scholarships for young Indonesians to study at universities abroad and had given donations to people in disaster areas. It has also supported the national program of COVID-19 vaccination, distributing at least 1.4 million masks and significant amounts of basic items for families during the pandemic.

Through their activities, INTI and the other Chinese-Indonesian organizations are winning stronger social acceptance and full recognition in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

Widodo told the meeting that he is keen to address the country's problems of unemployment, poverty and social inequality, and said small businesses are playing vital roles in fighting the pandemic and reviving economy.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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