Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of Muslim extremists and residents in Bekasi, 25 kilometres east of Jakarta, attacked dozens of members of a Protestant Church. A mob of about 800 angry Muslims stormed an open field in Ciketing Asem, Bekasi, Sunday morning, where Christians were holding Mass. After taking over the place, they roughly threw the Christians out.
Although present at the site, police just stood idly by, looking at what was happening, forming two lines to create a protective corridor that allowed the Christians to walk away. However, some of the latter were chased and beaten. “Several of them were wounded,” a churchgoer told AsiaNews. “Several of them were women”.
The attackers included members of radical groups like the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) and Islamic Community Forum (FUI).
Sahara Pangaribuan, an attorney that represents the Christian community, slammed police and the government for “not providing protection and security to the minority religious group”.
Bekasi’s Christian community belongs to the Batak Christian Protestant Church (Indon: Huria Batak Kristen Protestan). As the name indicates, members are ethnic Batak and their languages and customs are used during religious ceremonies.
This is the third time the FPI and the FUI disrupt an open-air religious ceremony held by the HKBP in Bekasi.
Tensions rose when the local authorities took away from the Church’s permit to use its church building, whilst allowing the community to use an open field for Sunday services.
Muslim extremists objected to the decision, arguing that the HKBP did not have the right papers to organise any meeting. Church leaders countered saying that they had all the papers, but that as a result of pressure from Muslim radicals they lost their permit.
HKBP leaders have tried to get the permit back by going to the Indonesian Human Rights Commission and the Indonesian parliament. So far, nothing was achieved because the police failed to enforce order and uphold the rights of the community.
Days ago, Rev Luspida Simanjutak, the community’s main pastor, told AsiaNews that, despite the hostility and violence of Muslims, the faithful would never stop meeting in the football field for Sunday Mass.
Bekasi Police Chief Imam Sugianto denied allegations that the police stood idly by.
“We warned the Christians several times, telling them not to hold the meetings, but they forced the situation, and the incident occurred,” he said.
He also acknowledged that 500 police agents were not enough to hold back the angry mob. (MH)