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Radical Muslims have accused Father Susetyo, a member of a presidential unit promoting community tolerance, of fueling religious violence by interfering in the affairs of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas.

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, a member of a presidential unit promoting community tolerance, speaks at a seminar in Jakarta in this file photo. (Photo provided)

Last week, police arrested Ahmad Zain An-Najah, a senior council official, for his alleged links to Jamaah Islamiyah, a terrorist group responsible for a series of attacks in Southeast Asia.

Father Susetyo criticized the council for allowing An-Najah to take up a post in the organization. Christian and Muslim lawyers from the archipelago lawyer movement have defended the priest and criticized the unwarranted attacks on the priest on the basis of baseless allegations.

Front Line Defenders, an Irish-based human rights group, honored individuals and organizations from six countries for their courageous advocacy in the face of threats and violence. The group announced on Wednesday the winners of the 2021 Front Line Defenders Award for human rights defenders at risk.

This year’s laureates are Mother Nature Cambodia, young Palestinian activists Sami and Sameeha Huraini, land rights activist Aminata Fabba from Sierra Leone, Aleh Hrableuski and Siarhei Drazdouski from Belarus who defend the rights of people with disabilities, anti-racist activist Mamadou Ba from Portugal and Women’s rights defender Camila Moradia from Brazil. They have resisted various forms of harassment, intimidation and threats, including violence, detention and imprisonment, for their activism.

Sun Ratha, an environmental activist from Mother Nature Cambodia. This leading environmental group is one of the 2021 Front Line Defenders Award winners for human rights defenders at risk. (Photo: Mother Nature Cambodia)

Mother Nature Cambodia has campaigned tirelessly for the preservation, promotion and protection of Cambodia’s natural environment.

This year, three young activists from the group were jailed for 5 to 10 years for their campaigns on various issues, including pollution and illegal logging in protected areas.

Thailand’s teen suicide rate has risen dramatically in Thailand, with experts pointing to rising stress and hopelessness over the coronavirus pandemic and economic woes. The nationwide suicide rate rose to 7.37 per 100,000 people from 6.64 the previous year.

As young people commit suicide by depression because of their circumstances at home and at school, millions of people have faced mental stress from the economic fallout from the pandemic.

A model films a video for social media with an employee of Honda motorcycles at the 42nd Bangkok International Motor Show in Thailand on March 26. (Photo: AFP)

In a shocking case on November 15, a 34-year-old woman left her three-year-old daughter on a highway bridge near Bangkok overnight and jumped into a canal.

The single mother was having emotional and financial problems. A 2019 study found that Thailand had the highest suicide rate among ASEAN countries.

A group of Catholic lawyers in the Philippines have provided cash and grocery packages to the drivers of Manila’s iconic Jeepney buses who have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

Drivers were left in dire straits when transport authorities suspended jeepneys and buses in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ban was only lifted on November 4. The drivers received up to 20,000 pesos or US $ 400 in aid with assistance of 5,000 pesos and interest-free loans of up to 15,000 pesos payable in 12 months.

A jeepney driver wearing a face mask and a sign that read ‘Sir / Mum, asking for help we are jeepney drivers’ receives handouts from a motorist on a Manila highway on August 6, 2020. (Photo : AFP)

A jeepney driver said many of them still live hand to mouth and have nothing to feed their children when they are not working. Many of them are in debt because they have been out of work for over a year.

Transportation authorities have reportedly started handing out fuel subsidies worth one billion pesos equivalent to US $ 20 million to more than 136,000 jeepney drivers.

On Wednesday, Sri Lanka’s High Court opened the long-awaited trial of 25 men accused of plotting the terrorist attack on Easter Sunday 2019. However, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo reiterated his request for further investigations for reveal a larger alleged plot behind the atrocity.

The prelate said the Catholic community wanted to know the “real culprits” behind the bombings and alleged that there were attempts to cover up the crime. Cardinal Ranjith and the Catholic community have spoken out for justice for the victims and have repeatedly called for revealing the truth while rejecting the findings of several investigations.

The damaged interior of St. Sebastian’s Church after the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019 (Photo: Facebook)

A local Islamist extremist group, National Thowheed Jamath, has been accused of carrying out suicide bombings against three churches and four hotels on Easter Sunday in 2019, which left 269 dead and more than 500 injured.