Merkel signals religious tolerance in Indonesia
Angela Merkel visits an Evangelical church in Jakarta and then Southeast Asia's largest mosque as a symbolic gesture of tolerance. But how harmonious is the inter-religious dialog in Indonesia?
A flood of women, singing and smiling, pour into the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel. Everyone wants to shake her hand.
This is Merkel's first visit to Indonesia as Chancellor. And there she stands in thin socks, marveling at the dome of the largest mosque in Southeast Asia with room for 120,000 worshipers.
Ninety percent of Indonesians are Muslim. No other country in the world has more. A visit to a mosque there is almost a must - even for Merkel, the daughter of an Evangelical minister.
But near the mosque is the Immanuel Protestant Church, which the Chancellor's visits first. In the packed colonial-style church, she speaks about her childhood in a Mecklenburg rectory. "We view Indonesia as a model of peaceful and tolerant development," she says.
The West often cites Indonesia as an example of an Islamic democracy - a bridge between Islam and Christianity. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the country for this very reason on a visit in 2009. "If you want to know if Islam, democracy, modernity and women's rights can coexist, go to Indonesia," she said. (...)