Obama praises tolerance in Indonesia, warns of sectarianism

Jakarta: Former US President Barack Obama on Saturday praised Indonesia for setting an example for other Muslim countries through its commitment to diversity and tolerance, but warned of the risk of increasing sectarianism in the country.

At the 4th Congress of the Indonesian Diaspora in Jakarta, Obama urged Indonesia to maintain its stance as a Muslim nation with tolerance towards other faiths, Efe news reported.

The former US President added that Indonesia, where he lived as a child between 1967 and 1971, made him appreciate the ability to respect differences between people.

Obama, who addressed the audience several times in Indonesian, added that his stepfather was raised as a Muslim but respected Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

He encouraged the people in Indonesia and elsewhere to reject the politics of ‘us and them’.

Obama also warned of other threats Indonesia is facing, such as corruption and climate change, citing environmental problems including illegal logging within the palm oil industry.

The former US President has been on a family vacation in Indonesia with his wife Michelle and his daughters Sasha and Malia, visiting the island of Bali and the city of Yogyakarta in central Java.

Obama concludes his visit on Sunday and would next travel to South Korea to attend the eighth Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul, where he would be joined by other politicians including former British Prime Minister David Cameron and former Japan Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

Obama enjoys great popularity in Indonesia, where Muslims make up 88 per cent of its 260 million people.