Muslim extremists and authorities shut down Protestant church in West Java

» 10/03/2011 12:32
INDONESIA

by Mathias Hariyadi
The village chief in Mekargalih, along with members of the Islamic Defender Front, expels Christians from their place of worship for allegedly engaging in “proselytising” in a predominantly Muslim area. A Christian woman complains, “Police have no guts against this radical group.” Pancasila principles are violated.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A group of extremists from the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) have shut down a Protestant church in Jatinangor, in Bandung sub district, last Friday, the Muslim day of prayer. As in previous occasions in which Christian places of worship were seized and religious activities interrupted, the fundamentalists were aided and abetted by the local administration.

Recently, rumours spread according to which the Protestant church was a haven for a “community of newly baptised”. Extremists also accuse Rev Bernard Maukar, head of the Christian community, of engaging in proselytising in a predominantly Muslim area.

Arief Saefolah, village chief in Mekargalih (where the church is located), said he had the right to close down the place of worship as “illegal” because it was within his jurisdiction. “This area is under my authority,” he told the Christian community. “Please, get out as soon as possible.”

Tensions had been rising until last Friday’s showdown. Saefolah and other local security officials (Satpol PP), plus 30 FPI members, seized all Christian properties, including chairs, musical instruments, tables and cars.

A Christian woman from the community, known only by her nickname Pur, lamented the fact that police did not lift a finger to stop the “vandalism”. In her view, “police have no guts against this radical group.”

The village chief denied claims that he brought in FPI fundamentalists to shut down the church. However, he did urge Christians to “go elsewhere” to worship their faith.

Outraged, Christians had rejected the proposal because it would force them to undertake long trips. Besides, they note that Arief Saefolah’s orders violate the principles of Pancasila, which define modern Indonesia, based on pluralism and freedom of worship.

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