2016-12-05 11:33:00

Unity rally held in Indonesia's capital Jakarta

(Vatican Radio)  Tens of thousands of people in Jakarta have staged a unity rally, two days after a divisive protest by Muslim groups. Sunday's rally saw people travelling to Indonesia's capital from across the country.

Listen to Alastair Wanklyn's report:

Tens of thousands of people gathered on a boulevard in Jakarta, under the slogan: "We are Indonesia."

Several minority ethnic groups were present. There was dancing by Chinese Indonesians, and some protestors travelled to the event from Bali, an island that is traditionally Hindu.

The gathering was seen as a response to chants of "Arrest him!"

Several hundred thousand Muslims who during outdoor prayers on Friday called for the arrest of the governor of Jakarta, a Christian man who is accused of insulting Islam.

That rally had a clear message: "Defend Islam!", that is, that Islam is under attack and must be defended.

By contrast, the gathering on Sunday was one of unity.

Political leader Surya Paloh told the crowd Indonesians cannot live together if they are humiliating one another. He called for a restoration of tolerance and trust.

Indonesia's Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. However, the nation's Christians have long suffered persecution, including sporadic deadly attacks on churches.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch has called the situation a "theatre of hatred," saying Indonesia's minorities may face greater persecution in the future if the government doesn't tackle the problem.

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