The man is Andreas Sanau, 29, accused along with Henry Sutanto by the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) of organising mass baptisms. The FPI is a radical Islamic group known for his violence against religious minorities, especially Christians.
For years, Islamic extremists have targeted Bekasi Christians, accusing the latter of trying to “Christianise” the city. In the first months of 2010, radical Islamic groups have interrupted Christian religious services, prevented Christians from entering their churches and blocked the building of new churches.
Charges against Sanau and Sutanto are the result of an initiative by the Mahanaim Foundation, a Christian organisation that helps the poor. Last Wednesday, 14 buses full of people met at the residence of the foundation’s president, Henry Sutanto. For Murhali Barda, the local FPI leader, Sutanto “must be killed; he wants a mass baptism.”
Foundation spokeswoman Marya Irawan said that the busloads of people were villagers who had come as part of an outreach programme in favour of the poor. The Foundation has no intention of baptising anyone.
Meanwhile things are getting worse, especially after the local FPI decided to set up a paramilitary organisation ahead of an expected struggle with Christians. More than 1,500 volunteers are training.
According to Murhali Barda, “we are doing this because we want to strike fear in the hearts of Christians who behave in such a way. If they refuse to stop what they’re doing, we’re ready to fight.”
Fr Andreas Yewangoe, secretary of the Communion of Indonesian Churches, said that the militia will only create fear, nervousness and unrest in the nation. “The government must protect all citizens from anarchist action as mandated by the constitution.” So far,the government has done nothing.
Political analyst Arbi Sanit said that the authorities are afraid of taking step that might be interpreted as anti-Islam. For them, “Being popular is more important [. . .] than punishing those who are clearly breaking the law,” Sanit said.