Friday, February 4, 2011

Attacks on Indonesian Churches Spiked in 2010, Group Says

Religious freedom violations jumped from 12 to 75, according to Setara Institute.

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Violations of Christians’ religious freedom in Indonesia jumped from 12 incidents in 2009 to 75 last year, according to a report from the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace. Setara Institute researcher Ismail Hasani said at a press conference last week that 43 incidents involved attacks on churches and other security threats, sealing of worship venues and prohibition of activities, among other violations. Other incidents among the 75 violations included blocking churches from establishing places of worship and banning services and other religious activities. Those involved in the violations acted primarily as members of community organizations.

Most violations were committed by community groups – 70 incidents by groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which was responsible for 17 incidents, the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI), which committed 11, and the Islamic Reform Movement (GARIS) which committed 10. Individuals were responsible for five incidents, and the Communication Forum for Religious Harmony (FKUB) committed three.

In previous years most religious freedom violations overall have occurred in West Java Province, and that trend continued as Setara recorded 91 incidents against Christians and other groups in 2010. West Java, besides having a history of radicalism, is a region that also has thriving hard-line Islamist organizations that have special agendas such as enforcement of sharia [Islamic law] and eradication of immorality, besides being anti-Christianization and anti-proselytizing.

After the 75 violations committed against Christian groups, the minority Muslim Ahmadiyya sect endured the next highest number of violations with 50.
The Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace and president of the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum, reported 46 incidents of religious freedom violations churches suffered in 2010. The violations included destruction of church buildings.

Government Failure West Java officials have shown hardly any resolve to protect freedom of religion and belief. Intolerance toward religious minorities intensified last year, with hard-line Islamist organizations often resorting to vigilantism and violence, according to the Institute. The report also points to high involvement of police and local government officials, as well as a failure of policemen to control Islamist groups. Regional leaders submitted to the pressures of the [Islamic] majority, although they [Islamists] were breaking the law and the constitution.

Omissions were committed by the police by letting citizens have their religious freedom threatened, and by not taking legal action against the groups who committed violence.” He added that there were exceptions, with some violators being prosecuted. Local governments used religious issues for political purposes,
either to gather political support or to subdue opponents. By Victor Raqual for Christian Today (Australia)

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