Indonesia teaches Palestinians about religious tourism
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Indonesia teaches Palestinians about religious tourism

INDONESIA’S Foreign Ministry has provided an 11-day training for 11 Palestinian archaeological experts in an open display of soft diplomacy this week.

The so-called International Training Workshop on Tourism and Antiquities for Palestinians was held in Yogyakarta and Magelang in Central Java, close to the world-famous Borobudur temple. The 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist site was restored by UNESCO in the 1970s and possesses a World Heritage listing as “one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.”

Indonesia has explicitly described capacity building for Palestinian experts is an expression of its continued support for the Palestinian struggle for nationhood, reports Republika.

Indonesian ambassador to Palestine and Jordan, Teguh Wardoyo, said “Palestine is blessed with amazing historical sites. The training is important to support Palestine’s tourism sector, particularly to develop its archeological sites.”

The focus was restoration and conservation of historic sites and effective tourism management. Hussein T. Madina of UNESCO said Palestine is currently working to increase the number of tourists coming into the country and invited Indonesians to visit religious sites in Palestine.

“The Indonesian Christians can visit religious sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry’s director of public diplomacy, Al Busyra Basnur, said “we are always reminded that it has been almost seven decades since Asia-Africa Conference was established in 1965 to fight against colonialism, but we are still asking for Palestinian independence until now.”

“Indonesia will not remain silent against the occupation.”

In January, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas requested that Indonesia promote the Middle East peace process and the Palestinian cause at the meeting of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Abbas has also asked Indonesia to lobby its neighbours in the Pacific, who generally vote in favour of Israel at the United Nations.

In what it says is an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people, Muslim-majority Indonesia does not have a formal diplomatic relationship with Israel.

SEE ALSO: Malaysian doctor, others in humanitarian Gaza mission freed by Israel

Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the establishment of formal ties in March 2016 in order to capitalise on “many opportunities for bilateral cooperation.” Indonesia however rejected the offer, stating it refused to “normalise” relations with Israel until Palestine had gained full independence.

Last month, a lack of diplomatic relations meant Netanyahu had to take a two-hour detour to avoid Indonesian airspace en route to Australia.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stand in front of aircraft models during a joint signing agreement in Sydney, Australia, February 23, 2017. Source: Reuters/Dean Lewins/Pool

The Palestinian embassy in Jakarta recently spoke out against use of its flag in hard-line rallies against the city’s Christian governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

SEE ALSO: Xenophobia rears its ugly head on the streets of Jakarta

Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla personally urged the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) to respect the Palestinian embassy’s request, noting that “if the Indonesian flag is used in a demonstration abroad, which is not connected with Indonesia, we certainly will protest too.”

Indonesia has provided educational programs for 1,700 Palestinians to date. The country has pledged to provide 15 training programs for countries in the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Caribbean during 2017 to foster cooperation amongst developing nations.