Christian leads protest against Indonesian vice president at Islamic Centre praised by Prince Charles
A passionate protest is taking place this afternoon outside the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, where the Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla is due to deliver a lecture.
The protest in favour of Christians and other minorities and against Islamic extremism comes just a day after the Prince of Wales spoke at the inauguration of the new home for the centre, appealing for better 'cultural connectivity' in society and praising the centre's goals of 'dialogue, understanding and connection'.
The peaceful demonstration is aimed at highlighting the 'ongoing persecution of minorities,' and comes after the jailing earlier this month of the Christian former governor of Jakarta, Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, on blasphemy charges.
One demonstrator claimed that eight security men from the embassy could be seen taking photographs of the protesters.
Mariella Djorghi, a Catholic from Indonesia and a trained lawyer who helped organise the protest, told Christian Today: 'My main point is to ask questions to Jusuf Kalla – how he would envisage a moderate Islam in Indonesia. Because at the moment what we have seen is a Christian governor who has lost a re-election because Muslims went onto the streets with placards quoting a Koran verse – al Ma'ida 51.'
The verse reads: 'O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you - then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.'
Djorghi said: 'Because of that, my belief was that the vote was switched. He is a governor who has proven to be highly competent, and he lost to an Islamist who was openly supported by Jusef Kalla, who should have remained neutral.'
'So what message is this sending to non-Muslims like me? It means that you are not welcome in this country.
'I would not be risking standing here being registered by the intelligence of the embassy so I cannot go home, or whatever they might have in store for me, if I did not feel passionately about this. Many people are scared because they have families back home. If you can do that to a governor, you can do anything to anyone else. Why is the governor behind bars and not them?
'I asked an embassy official, how would he feel if he sees Christians marching down the street saying ''Christians should not choose non-Christians as leaders'? He said that he has to be neutral. How can you be neutral in the face of such injustice?'
Djorghi added: 'When I found out that Prince Charles was the patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, I thought: "Please resign from that post. This is not good news for you." It beggars belief.
'This is no longer about the Christian governor – he is in jail and there is nothing I can do about that now. It is about us and what happens to us.'
Djorghi, an Indonesian resident from London, has written to Oxford University's Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson regarding Kalla's invitation,saying that he is not fit to discuss 'moderate Islam'.
Her protest has been supported by the British Pakistani Christian Association, which has set up a petition.
The Association's chairman Wilson Chowdhry said: 'I join Mariella and other humanitarians in expressing deep concern for the bias support that the Vice President gave to an Islamist candidate for the Jakarta governorship for which he was widely criticised.'