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Indonesian churchgoers defy threats, violent attacks

Publication Date : 18-02-2013

 

The members of several beleaguered Christian congregations in different parts of Indonesia defied the peril of new Molotov cocktail attacks and violent threats yesterday to conduct religious activities.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, five churches that were attacked by vigilantes wielding Molotov cocktails last week held mass on Sunday.

Makassar Mayor Ilham Arief Sirajuddin condemned the terror acts as “barbaric”, saying that he supported the constitutional right of Christians to practice their religion.

“Let us be united,” the mayor said yesterday.

In Tambora, West Jakarta, the Damai Kristus Catholic Church also held Sunday services, despite threats from the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) to use force to disperse the congregation.

The hard-line group, some of whose members have engaged in vigilante violence against those they deem in violation of the law, have alleged that the church lacks a needed permit.

Local FPI members came to the church on Friday to tell its minister and the congregation not to build a church and that the use of an unlicensed building for worship would not be tolerated.

The congregation was formed in 1963 and has since operated a school. Its application for a permit to build a church on the site has been pending with officials since 1987.

An employee of Damai Kristus Catholic Church who declined to be named to discuss the issue confirmed that four masses were held on Sunday and proceeded without incident.

“We performed Sunday mass as usual,” said the employee.

Damai Kristus parish priest Rev. Widyo did not respond to a telephone call and an SMS from The Jakarta Post asking for comment on Sunday.

Contacted separately, Rev. Advent Nababan of the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) in Setu in Bekasi, West Java, told the Post that his congregation also held mass without incident on Sunday.

Members of several local hard-line and vigilante Muslim groups allegedly told the congregation that there would be serious consequences if it held mass on Sunday.

“We managed to perform Sunday services today [Sunday]. The threats did not materialise,” Nababan said.

Meanwhile, the chief of the Jakarta Christian Communications Forum, Theophilus Bella, told the Post that the number of threats against churches in Greater Jakarta has been increasing.

“In 2012, I recorded 75 cases across Indonesia, 31 of which occurred in Greater Jakarta, up from 64 cases in the year before. The trend in such cases has shown a steady increase since 2009. So I am not surprised that we have already seen a number of threats in early 2013,” Theophilus said.

The secretary of the National Counterterrorism Agency, Air Marshall Chairul Akbar, said that the rising political tensions in Greater Jakarta might be exploited by irresponsible parties.

“As we all can see, there have been many disputes related to the election of regional leaders, problems within the ruling party, flooding, among others,” he told the Post. “We see that some people are using this chaotic momentum for their own advantage.”

 

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