Jakarta (AsiaNews) – More than a thousand Muslims staged a protest today against the Carmelite Praying Centre in Cikanyere Hill, Kota Bunga, in Cianjur Regency (West Java), some 100 km south of Jakarta. They were held at bay by police deployed around the religious compound but their action presaged a campaign to drive the religious institution away.
Calling themselves the Islamic People of Cianjur, the white-clad protesters marched from the Siti Hajar Mosque compound towards the Carmelite centre, which is located at least one kilometre away. Muslims from other towns like West Java’s provincial capital of Bandung also joined the marchers. Today the centre was holding a conference on the Holy Trinity.
Demonstrators loudly protested against the use of the compound for mass and other liturgical ceremonies; some even objected to the presence itself of the Carmelite centre.
Police armed with sticks and shields tried to block the main gate so as prevent angry protesters from entering the compound.
Known also as the Lembah Karmel of Cikanyere, the Carmelite centre was set up about 20 years ago by Fr John Indra Kusuma O’Carm as a place for the contemplative life to serve Carmelite sisters and brothers.
Over the years it has become a favourite place for Catholics living in Jakarta and West Java provinces to come and pray. Every week it organises seminars and conferences as well as spiritual retreats.
Now that local Islamic extremists have targeted it for protests there are growing fears that it might become the focal of even more disturbing action.
Making matters worse about a month ago, an extremist Islamic magazine published a special reportage about the centre with information bound to incite protests.