Indonesia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the country of some 240 million people, 80 per cent of whom are Muslim, has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

However, in recent months, it has been plagued by rising violence by Islamic groups who have launched attacks on mosques belonging to minority sects and Christian churches.

Call for action

Hundreds of Indonesians, mostly Christians, held a prayer vigil in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, on Sunday urging Yudhoyono to stop the attacks and guarantee religious freedom.

In July the Indonesian rights group the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace said there were 28 cases of religious freedom violations from January to July, up from 17 for the whole of 2008 and 18 in 2009.

The violations, mostly by radical Muslim groups, included forced closure of churches and attacks such as torching and damaging churches, it said.

Human Rights Watch early this month said Indonesia was letting Islamist groups trample the constitutional rights of minorities, leading to inter-communal violence.

It called on Yudhoyono to repeal laws that it said gives extremists from the dominant religious group the legal space to launch violent attacks on people of other faiths and sects.

Yudhoyono also said during his speech that the government was optimistic of a 7.7 per cent growth in the economy by 2014.