Sunday, September 19, 2010

Christians Pray in Shuttered Church in Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia. Dozens of Christians held prayers inside their boarded-up church near Indonesia’s capital Sunday, saying they had as much right as anyone to worship in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

They were surrounded by hundreds of police and unarmed security guards.

Using bullhorns, local officials reminded members of the Batak Christian Protestant Church they were banned from the site following an attack on two church leaders by suspected Islamic hard-liners.

Indonesia, a secular country of 237 million people, has more Muslims than any other in the world. Though the country has a long history of religious tolerance, a small extremist fringe has become more vocal — and violent — in recent years.

Ten people were arrested after last week’s attacks, which left one churchgoer hospitalized with a stab wound. Among them was the local leader of the hard-line Islamic Defender’s Front, which has led calls for the Christians to leave.

In recent months, the hard-liners have thrown shoes and water bottles at the church members, interrupted sermons with chants of ``Infidels!’’ and dumped piles of feces on the land.
Local officials had seven empty buses on standby outside the Batak Christian’s shuttered church Sunday, ready to transport them to an alternate site of worship provided by the government.

But members of the congregation, numbering about 100, refused to budge.

After lengthy negotiations, they were allowed to carry out Sunday services, with the agreement that they would talk later this week about ways to help defuse religious tensions in the neighborhood.AP

1 comment:

  1. Has Indonesia failed to protect its citizens?
    Svetlana Anggita Prasasthi, Jakarta
    As a Muslim, the assaults of two Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) leaders on Sept. 12, for me and for many Indonesians, regardless their religion, is shocking.
    This occurred in Indonesia, where people take pride in their nation’s internationally recognized reputation as a peaceful, tolerant and democratic nation. Religion is the anchor in the everyday life of most Indonesians, either as a part of their character, or as a part of the nation’s identity.
    Indonesians are proud to have the 1945 Constitution as the foundation of our nation, and are equally proud of the state ideology Pancasila and its first principle, Belief in One God.
    The constitution guarantees the protection of freedom of religion, including every person’s freedom to worship according to his or her religion and beliefs.
    After Indonesia transformed into a full democracy in 1998, the nation also ratified international human rights conventions that guarantee freedom of religion and belief without discrimination.
    However, in reality, as reported by the local and international media and many human rights reports, many Indonesians continue to face religious hardship.
    The situation is worse for persons who do not have a religion or faith, or if their beliefs are not recognized by the state. Every Indonesian must have an official religion, a policy which is contrary to international human rights laws that acknowledge agnostic and even atheist views.
    Another sad example is demonstrated by the present poor condition of the Ahmadis in Indonesia. They are not only facing religious discrimination and violence that has led to economic hardship, the Indonesian government even issued a Joint Decree (SKB) which ruled that Ahmadiyah followers have only two options: They can continue their present religious activities but they will not be acknowledged by the state as Muslims, or change their teachings and practices in accordance with mainstream Islam.
    This decision very unfair for the Ahmadis, because aside from the obvious human rights implications, expecting them to acknowledge they are not equal Muslims is asking them to commit an apostasy against themselves as Ahmadis.
    The freedom of religion or faith should never be compromised under any circumstance, even under a public state of emergency.
    Following the violent attacks on the two HKBP church leaders, authorities in Bekasi said on Monday that they had warned the congregation not to hold services in Ciketing, where the crime took place.
    The incident could have been seen as a direct result of a lack of protection by the State, its failure to uphold religious freedom, and especially to secure the rights for followers to assemble for worship — and this was not the first attack on the church.
    Still, the government regards the problem as no more than an “administrative issue” or a “purely criminal act”.
    Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Timur Pradopo said the police’s preliminary investigation concluded the assaults were “purely criminal”, adding that police had found no link to recent interfaith conflicts (The Jakarta Post, Sept. 13).
    The state has a constitutional obligation to ensure that all citizens have full freedom of religion and the guaranteed right to practice their faith. Violating one’s right to worship according to one’s religion is a serious violation of human rights.

    The writer is a law faculty graduate from Gadjah Mada University.