'Altered' cross: Yogyakarta apologises to family

The family of Albertus Slamet Sugihardi was prohibited by Muslim neighbours from holding prayers for their dead relative and placing a wooden cross on his grave.
The family of Albertus Slamet Sugihardi was prohibited by Muslim neighbours from holding prayers for their dead relative and placing a wooden cross on his grave.PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

YOGYAKARTA • The Yogyakarta administration has apologised to a Catholic family after they were prohibited by Muslim neighbours from holding prayers for their late relative and placing a wooden cross on his grave.

"Even though the incident was not intentional, I, as a leader of the region, apologise to Bu Slamet and her entire family and also the Catholic Church officials in Yogyakarta and Kotagede who have been disturbed by the incident," Yogyakarta Governor Hamengkubuwono, who is also the 10th Yogyakarta sultan, told reporters on Thursday.

"This incident is a lesson to all of us. Yogyakarta leaders and people must uphold tolerance to maintain peace and harmony."

The apology came three days after the incident, which sparked national outrage and forced the usually restrained Catholic Church to release one of its strongest statements against the authorities for allegedly failing to protect minority groups.

Mr Albertus Slamet Sugihardi, who died on Monday at the age of 63, was buried at a local cemetery in Purbayan.

His neighbours demanded that any Christian symbols be removed from his grave as the cemetery would be made exclusive for Muslims, and the community sawed off part of a wooden cross Mr Slamet's family had put on his grave.

The Governor insisted that Yogyakarta was a tolerant province, claiming that Mr Slamet's family and the local community had made an agreement to maintain harmony. He added, however, that the Purbayan residents had acted in ways that were not in line with the Constitution.

 

He lamented that the incident went viral on social media, which he said did not provide a complete picture of what had happened. He said he was informed that the villagers helped Mr Slamet's family with his funeral and that the act of cutting the cross was done to preserve harmony.

"Perhaps the community was only trying to be practical. Meanwhile, there is a constitutional reference on religious symbols. That was ignored."

The Semarang Catholic Archdiocese claimed the incident in Purbayan was a violation of the state ideology Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. The Church reached the conclusion following an investigation conducted by its commission on peace and justice in Yogyakarta.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko from the Bishops Council of Indonesia said that he hoped the local government would be impartial and create a forum where all parties could sit together to get to the root of the problem to prevent it from spiralling into something bigger.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 23, 2018, with the headline ''Altered' cross: Yogyakarta apologises to family'. Print Edition | Subscribe