Mon, 23 Sep 2002

Antiterror war conceals global injustices

Muhammad Nafik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesian religious leaders marked Saturday's International Day of Peace by calling for a war on global injustices as a prerequisite to fighting worldwide terrorism and violence across the country.

They also told the United States and other Western countries to cease their arrogance deemed to have led to feelings of enmity, hatred and hostility in the developing world.

Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) leader Andreas A. Yewangoe said developed countries, especially the U.S., should use the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy as momentum to reflect on whether their global economic and political systems were just.

"It is not impossible that war on terror and terrorism will encourage new terror if the core of the problem, namely global injustice, is not addressed.

"Churches have really been aware that violence will not end with violence. It will lead to renewed outbreaks of more intense violence."

If only the outbreaks of violence were addressed, without dealing with the core problem, the cycle of violence would continue, Yewangoe said at a ceremony to observe the UN's first annual International Day of Peace.

Other guests at the ceremony, hosted by the UN Information Center (UNIC) Jakarta, was UNIC director Abdullah Saleh Mbamba, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra and Islamic, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist leaders who all delivered messages of peace.

Coordinating Minister of People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla and Minister of Religious Affairs Said Agil Husin Al-Munawwar were not present but sent senior officials to represent them.

The International Day of Peace was declared under a UN General Assembly resolution dated on Sept. 7 last year, six days before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. It is observed worldwide on every Sept. 21 beginning from 2002.

Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) secretary general Din Syamsuddin shared Yewangoe's view, saying the U.S.-led international campaign against terrorism would fail should global justice not be taken into serious account, or if the world superpower continued with its double standards in the Middle East conflict.

"The war on terrorism will not be successful and will even spark new terrorism, if the U.S. and other Western states continue with their arrogant power," he told journalists after his speech.

The U.S. has been repeatedly berated by many Muslim states and others for their "double-standards" in the Mideast in favor of Israel.

Criticism escalated as the world superpower signaled its intention to attack Iraq as part of the global anti-terrorism campaign.

M.J. Notoseputro, an executive secretary of the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI), said Western nations had gone too far in the war on terrorism as it had breached the principles of human rights.

"The campaign is politicized by the U.S., so the target and purpose are unclear," he told The Jakarta Post after Saturday's ceremony, citing as an example the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the plan to hit Iraq.

He said that in order to be "fair" there should have been intense dialog to deal with terrorism across the globe.

"What is happening now is arrogance and hatred."

Abdullah Mbamba concurred with the Indonesian religious leaders' calls for the world to eradicate global injustices to make the war on terrorism a success.

"It is true," he told the Post when asked about the global injustices blamed on the U.S. and other Western nations, which have encouraged terrorism.

Apart from the anti-terrorism fever, Saturday's observation came amid religious, ethnic and separatist fighting that has been plaguing several parts of the world's largest Muslim country. The fighting has killed thousands of people in Maluku, Poso in Central Sulawesi, Aceh and Papua.

Other cases of violence, ranging from murders and rapes to robbery, were reported in major cities across the country of more than 200 million people.

All of the speakers called for an end to the violence to achieve long-lasting peace in the country.