US cancels trip by LGBTQ envoy after Jakarta objects

The United States has cancelled a trip to Indonesia by a special envoy on LGBTQ rights after the country’s most influential Islamic group objected to the visit.

Special envoy Jessica Stern was to have visited Indonesia next week as part of a trip to South-East Asia.

The Indonesian Ulema Council issued a statement on Friday saying the visit would harm the country’s religious and cultural values.

“As a religious and civilised nation, we are told to respect guests. But we also cannot accept guests whose purpose of coming here is to damage and mess up the noble values of our nation’s religion and culture,” the council’s vice-chairman, Anwar Abbas, said in a statement.

The council often issues fatwas, or edicts, including rulings against smoking and yoga. Though not legally binding, many Muslims follow such decrees because ignoring them is considered a sin.

US Ambassador Sung Kim said the US hopes to continue a dialogue on the human rights of LGBTQI+ people, but “after discussions with our counterparts in the Indonesian government, we have decided to cancel Special Envoy Stern’s visit to Indonesia”.

“Countries like Indonesia and the US can learn from one another about how to counter hatred and ensure more prosperous, inclusive societies for all,” he said. — AP

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