Jakarta – “Indonesia has not yet reached the moment for a Christian political leader at the national level, as president, vice president or governor of Jakarta. We must have patience and look at history”: Fides was told this by Jesuit Father Franz Magnis-Suseno, university docent and known political and social analyst in Indonesia, commenting the failed election of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an Indonesian Christian as governor of Jakarta, beaten by Anies Baswedan a Muslim. The electoral campaign saw the rise of radical Muslim movements which rejected the election of a Christian governor exploiting religion for political ends.
“In the United States 160 years passed before a Catholic could become president and at that time reactions from certain Protestant circles were far from positive: and this in America! Shall we forget the reactions to the first black president, Obama? Or loud protests on the part of many Germans when president Horst Koehler, ten years ago, dared to speak about ‘German Islam’?”, says the German Jesuit, who took up residence in Indonesia in 1961 becoming an Indonesian citizen in 1977.
Noting the disappointment of the Christians in Jakarta, the Jesuit insists: “Why should they imagine that a country with an 88% Muslim population might want a Christian governor in Jakarta, and an arrogant Chinese Christian at that?”.
“It is a psychological matter – says Magnis-Suseno, in charge of the Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta – which we cannot expect people to overcome easily. Better not dwell on this note and risk re-awakening sectarian conflict on a wave of religious emotion. What Jakarta needs is a Muslim leader who is pluralist and a supporter of Pancasila, and works for the good of the Republic of Indonesia. A Christian leader might become his assistant, declining any front line position ”.
Fr Magnis-Suseno admits “Ahok is very capable but shows certain weaknesses that render him unsuitable for an important political position: he is unable to master his language”, the priest said recalling that Ahok has spoken harshly regarding his critics. In the first place, the Jesuit remarks, “Ahok should know that a Chinese Christian should not refer to the Koran. Had he not quoted the sura Al-Maidah, he might have been re-elected ”.
“What is more, he is a rather arrogant person. And from the Christian point of view his behaviour towards the poor has been brutal. Most of the people he evicted ended up homeless with nowhere to go. I myself have criticised him twice , but not in the past year, I did not wish my words to be exploited in the electoral campaign. Ahok does not have the support of many social activists”, says Fr. Magnis.
The Jesuit adds “Ahok failed to expand his area of consensus. A year ago, before the controversy over blasphemy, about 75% of the citizens considered him a good politician but less than 50% then approved his activity as governor and only 42% voted for him in the first and second rounds of elections in Jakarta”.
In Indonesia, choosing between a Muslim candidate and a Christian candidate, Fr. Magnis-Suseno concludes “most Muslim ordinary voters would vote for the Muslim unless he was someone quite unpresentable”, even without pressure from the Islamic Defenders Front.