Leaders of Indonesia's religious groups are calling on members of their respective faiths to exercise voting rights in the country's upcoming elections and to help ensure they are free, fair and transparent.
The leaders spoke at a January 22nd forum in Jakarta organised by the Election Supervisory Committee (Bawaslu), Indonesia's electoral watchdog.
"With our vote, we determine our country's future," one of the panellists, Christian leader Antonius Benny Susetyo, told Khabar Southeast Asia. "We need to be careful. We want to support transparency in the democratic system we have."
Humanist and religious leader Ahmad Sobary said citizens help build a better society by voting.
"Participation in elections is essential because, without this process, the establishment of justice in society will not be realised," Ahmad told Khabar.
Andrew A. Yewangoe, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI), encouraged fellow Christians to go to the polls April 9th, when Indonesians will vote in national and regional legislative elections, and on July 9th, when they will vote for a new president.
"Do not waste your vote; choose with your hope," he said.
Ensuring fair elections
Nyoman Udayana, central executive secretary of the Hindu Association in Indonesia, said his group would mobilise volunteers to help monitor the elections.
"Our religious leaders have agreed to hold meetings and socialisations for this upcoming election," Udayana told Khabar. The religious leaders also called on civil society groups to help Bawaslu watch over voting at the community level on the polling days.
"It is the people's responsibility to monitor elections closely to consolidate democracy," State Islamic University (UIN) Rector Syarif Hidayatullah said. "In addition to faith-based organisations, campuses are also invited to engage in surveillance."
Hopes for a pluralist leader
Indonesians expect that the future leader will be aware of the nation's cultural diversity, racial and religious differences, and modern political customs.
However, according to Muslim scholar Syafi'i Ma'arif, many social groups still are hostile to religious pluralism.
It is important to understand the concept of pluralism and to maintain it especially because Indonesia is so diverse, he said, noting that the country has more than 300 ethnic groups and 665 languages.
"Choose a pluralist leader in the 2014 elections," said Syafi'i, founder of the Ma'arif Institute for Culture and Humanity. "Hopefully in the 2014 elections, we will find a genuine and pluralist figure."