Taiwan presents Democracy and Human Rights Award to Indonesian NGO

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, left) and Alissa Wahid

By Shih Hsiu-chuan

Taipei, Dec. 10 (CNA) The 2018 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award (ADHRA) was presented Monday to an Indonesia nongovernmental organization that promotes pluralism and works to protect minority rights against religious and racial intolerance.

“To receive this award is our second greatest honor. Not because the award is less important but because we believe our greatest honor is serving the people, fighting injustices,” Alissa Wahid, national coordinator of the Gusdurian Network Indonesia (GNI), said at the award ceremony.

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“The award is a recognition of our work but also serves as a reminder of our commitment to work harder. It will be the bar we set for ourselves,” said Wahid, daughter of the late president of Indonesia Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur.

Established in 2010, the GNI was named after Gus Dur to encourage interaction and consolidation among those who share his beliefs and vision in Indonesia and around the world, according to the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), founder of the award.

The Jakarta-based group engages thousands of people across Indonesia, from Muslim clerics, leaders of other religions, activists and professionals to students in hosting thousands of grass-roots activities focusing on promoting tolerance, multiculturalism, the spread of peaceful Islam and substantive democracy in more than 100 cities in the country.

Some of its recent endeavors include calling for a judicial review of laws that discriminate against believers in a religion that is not one of the six officially recognized faiths in Indonesia and protecting the rights of minority Muslim groups such as Shia and Ahmadiyah, according to the TFD.

The GNI’s intervention after the church attacks in Aceh last year brought about a peace declaration from the parties in the conflict, while the dialogue it promoted among Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists after church bombings in Surabaya, East Java in May helped restore trust and reduce potential conflict, the TFD said.

In her acceptance speech, Wahid said the GNI is guided by nine principles based on the core values pursued by Gus Dur throughout his life. “Most importantly, humanity and justice. Gus Dur had a very famous slogan: ‘humanity is more important than politics.'”

Speaking of challenges, Wahid noted the escalation of religious populism, hate spin and extremism that have been observed in Indonesian, as in other countries.

“Gus Dur used to say: ‘God needs no defense.’ But now we see how God and religion are used as tools to gain political power, to discriminate against others and to do injustice. And when done in the name of god, how powerful. This is where we currently focus our work,” Wahid said.

Despite these challenges, Wahid added that the GNI activists will never be beat down.

“Some people in the past paid the price for what we have today and never enjoyed the fruits of their struggle, which we enjoy today; so we owe it to future generations. We have to fight for them, at least to hand them the torch of the struggle, a light, for them,” she said

In presenting the award, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) praised the GNI for its efforts to engage different social groups in dialogue to deepen democracy.

At a time when extremism poses a challenge to many democracies by exacerbating divisions across society, the values the GNI embraces — moderation, tolerance of differences, inter-religion communication and inter-ethnic dialogue — are commendable, Tsai said.

TFD Chairman and legislative speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), said he hopes the award and Taiwan’s experience can help the world envision a future where all vulnerable groups are treated equally, irrespective of gender, race, or religion.

The TFD was initiated by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and established as a foundation by the Legislature. The annual award was created in 2006 to support individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the advancement of democracy and human rights in Asia.

The award consists of a trophy and a US$100,000 grant to support the ongoing work of the recipient.


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