At least six representatives of interfaith youth from Aceh Singkil Regency met with a number of groups, from the Civil Society Organization (CSO), and Islamic student organizations, to representatives of church youth in Banda Aceh. Separate meetings for each of these youth groups took place over two days, from Monday to Tuesday, October 24-25 2022, at the office of the Commission for Disappeared Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) Aceh.
The youths on occasion discussed their perspectives and exchanged ideas regarding the conditions of tolerance in Aceh, and in particular, also updated the issue of the establishment of places of worship in Aceh Singkil. In the meeting with cross-CSOs, representatives from Flower Aceh, Solidaritas Perempuan (SP) Bungong Jeumpa Aceh, Laboratorium Pengembangan Sosial Keagamaan (LABPSA), and alumni of the Aceh KontraS Human Rights School were present.
In addition, the meeting with Muslim student organizations was attended by a number of representatives from Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Muslim Indonesia (KAMMI) Aceh and Ikatan Mahasiswa Muhammadiyah (IMM) Aceh. In the next session, Aceh Singkil youths also met and discussed with representatives of church youth in Banda Aceh.
Kevin Sedianto Padang, a Christian youth from Aceh Singkil, said that true tolerance has run organically and has taken root in Singkil with traditional attachments. So in daily practice, relations between Muslims and Christians there are closely intertwined, and respect each other. However, he is worried about the protracted issue of licensing houses of worship, which until now has not found a bright spot.
“Social situation continues normally, but the problem of houses of worship in Singkil is a latent threat. We are worried that this will be disturbed because there are some religious rights that have not been fulfilled,” he said.
Meanwhile, the requirements for the establishment of places of worship through Qanun 4 of 2016 concerning guidelines for religious harmony and the establishment of places of worship, are very difficult to fulfill for Christians in Singkil. Obstacles in obtaining support for this place of worship have been experienced for many years, so an alternative approach is needed to solve the problem.
"The problem in Singkil is difficult to resolve through fulfilling the requirements through Qanun 4/2016, therefore it is necessary to hasten a dialogue with equal representation of each religious community, and it is also important to see that efforts to fulfill the right to worship are based on needs, not desires," said Kevin.
He also said that this situation was also felt by young people in Aceh Singkil. There they feel the need to be given space to participate in voicing the strengthening of inter-religious tolerance.
"It is the youth who will inherit Singkil's social life in the future, don't let the sentiments that arise because of the problem of this house of worship continue to be passed down from generation to generation," he hoped.
Dian Saputra, one of the Muslim youths of Aceh Singkil, said that there is a kind of prejudice on each side, "especially regarding claims of who are natives and immigrants, we must eliminate this kind of ego, the prejudice that continues to be inherited and has not been completely resolved," he said.
He encouraged youths to take part in anticipating the emergence of hate political narratives, especially in the coming political years. Youth need to unite to voice peace for all people, for the sake of a better future for Singkil. This situation also needs to be reflected and become a lesson for other regions.
On the other hand, the youths also discussed other issues related to tolerance, namely the right to obtain religious education for all students of any religion. Adventina, one of the young women from Singkil hopes that the government will take this issue seriously.
"Although there are many Christian students in Singkil schools, most of them find it difficult to get their religious education, because there are no Christian teachers at the school," Adventina said.
The youths agreed that this cross-stakeholder meeting was important to follow up. They urged the government to immediately resolve the problem of houses of worship in Singkil with a dialogue approach and voiced their rejection of the politicization of religious issues that could divide society.
"In the future, there should be more similar meetings, so that these discussion spaces can further strengthen the sense of brotherhood of youth from across religions, for the peaceful future of Aceh Singkil," Kevin concluded.