6th June, 2012
VISHAL ARORA and VICTOR AMBARITA
Compass Direct News
The number of violations of Christians’ religious rights in Indonesia reached 40 in the first five months of the year, nearly two-thirds the amount of anti-Christian actions in all of last year, according to the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum.
The Christian minority in Indonesia faced 64 cases of violations of religious freedom last year, up from 47 in 2010, said Theophilus Bela, president of the group. Bela said he was worried about the growing incidence of violence and church closures, as his group recorded just 10 anti-Christian incidents in 2009. There were 40 such incidents in 2008, he said.
The Christian minority in Indonesia faced 64 cases of violations of religious freedom last year, up from 47 in 2010, said Theophilus Bela, president of Jakarta Christian Communication Forum.
At least 22 churches have been forced to close this year, including 18 in the Singkil regency of Aceh Province that were sealed last month, as local authorities either sided with or came under pressure from extremist Islamist groups in this Southeast Asian archipelago that is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, according to Mr Bela.
The closures in Aceh followed last month’s election of a hard-line Islamic governor. Mr Bela said that after his organisation’s intervention the closed churches in Aceh began worshipping again on 13th May, but unconfirmed reports indicate other churches in the area have since been forced to close.
Violence against Christians has also increased, with most incidents taking place in areas surrounding Jakarta and Singkil, said Mr Bela, who is also secretary general of the Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace, a group that promotes inter-religious dialogue.
Besides a 17th May incident in which 600 Islamists hurled bags of urine and ditchwater at about 100 members of the Philadelphia Batak Christian Protestant Church in Bekasi, near Jakarta in West Java Province, local authorities closed down a small Pentecostal church about 15 miles (24 kilometres) west of Jakarta in Tangerang city, Banten Province, after members of the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) attacked it on 14th April, Mr Bela said.
It was the second attack this year on the Gereja Pentakosta di Indonesia (GPdI) church by FPI extremists, driving 38-year-old pastor Abraham Boys into hiding and forcing him to seek asylum in the United States, Mr Bela added.
Earlier, local authorities in Padang, West Sumatra Province, revoked the building permit of a Catholic church, St. Ignatius, telling the congregation to move to another location, Mr Bela said. On 21st March, public officials raided the church building under construction, forced laborers to stop and fenced the area with barbed wire.
Church leaders, however, refused to move to a new location, and authorities later allowed them to continue to worship there, Mr Bela said.
A few days earlier, Mr Bela added, unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets at the building of the Indonesia Christian Church (locally known as the GKI) in Indramayu, West Java Province, about 100 miles (160 kilometres) east of Jakarta. While no one was killed in the 16th March incident, it terrorised the Christian minority.
In Pangkal Pinang, in Bangka-Belitung Province, authorities have refused to grant a permit to construct a Catholic seminary due to opposition from local Muslims, according to Catholic news agency UCAN. Officials suggested the Catholic Diocese of Pangkal Pinang stop construction and move the building to a neighboring village, though clergy said they had previously submitted all necessary applications.
Another GKI church, known as the Yasmin Church, has also been denied permission to meet for worship at its church site despite a favorable Supreme Court order.
Local Christians complain that the impractical requirements of a 2006 decree, the Revised Joint Ministerial Decree on the Construction of Houses of Worship, provide the pretext for Islamic extremists and officials to close churches, revoke permissions and delay building permits. It mandates religious groups obtain the signatures of at least 90 members and 60 area residents, as well as approval from the local religious affairs office.
This is a shortened version of a longer article. The complete article can be found at www.compassdirect.org.
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