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Indonesians protest award from U.S. rabbi

(JTA) — Indonesians are criticizing the decision by an American rabbi’s foundation to honor their country’s president.

The decision by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation to honor President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with its World Statesman Award on May 30 has sparked street protests and strident criticism from local human rights activists, the Forward reported.

“He has laid down the legal infrastructure of the discrimination against religious minorities,” said Andreas Harsono, a researcher for Human Rights Watch based in Jakarta.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith dialogue group focusing on human rights and religious freedom, was founded in 1965 by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Holocaust survivor and spiritual leader of the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan. Schneier is also the foundation’s president.

Human Rights Watch says that persecution of religious minorities has increased under Yudhoyono’s rule, the Forward reported.

In a statement, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation said the award is meant as “an encouragement to advance human rights, religious freedom and inter-religious cooperation.”

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