Buddhists call on Indonesia to protect statue of deity


Buddhists have called on the government to protect a 30-meter-tall (100-foot) statue of a Chinese deity after protesters demanded it be tore down.

The statue of Chinese god Kwan Sing Tee Koen inside a temple complex in Tuban, East Java province, has angered locals since it was erected last month.

They claim the garishly painted monument is at odds with Indonesian culture.

However, Abhinyano, chairman of the East Jakarta Buddhist Student Association, called on President Joko Widodo to protect the fierce-looking statue.

"We ask President Joko Widodo to protect the statue because it is a symbol of tolerance and freedom of religion in Indonesia," he told Anadolu Agency on Saturday.

Abhinyano, who follows the Indonesian practice of using just one name, said such demands could threaten other religious symbols that have stood for hundreds of years.

The protesters have said the statue was built without official permission.

It has now been covered in cloth. "We just want Indonesia to be peaceful," temple administrator Gunawan said.

Local media reported the president's office as saying the government would not give in to the protesters.

"When there is a demonstrator who asks for the statue to be torn down, the apparatus should not give in to their pressure," Chief of Staff Teten Masduki said, according to the Kompas news website.

Indonesia, which is home to the world's largest Muslim population, is officially secular and recognizes six religions.

However, recent tensions have tested the country's tolerant outlook. The Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Purnama, was jailed for two years earlier this year after being convicted of insulting Islam.

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