07/18/2013, 00.00
INDONESIA

Aceh, increasing intolerance against Christians: 17 house churches closed

by Mathias Hariyadi
The Muslim majority province is led by Zaini Abdullah, who has based his political fortune on the "full application" of sharia. Jakarta protests and demands the governor "respect religious plurality," but Christian leaders denounce violence and persecution by the Islamic community.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Islamist pressures against Christian communities in Aceh "have become intolerable. Within a year, with non-existent legal pretexts, 17 house churches have been closed: these also include Catholic chapels. The islamization of the province continues , just as promised by the governor Abdullah. " It is the sense of the Annual Report published by IndonesianChristian.org,  Protestant organization which monitors the situation of the Christian community in Indonesia.

The forced closure of places of worship and threats against Protestant congregations, says the text, "increase unabated. But this will only create tensions manipulated from the outside between the Christian and Islamic communities. The government must guarantee religious plurality and respect: or risk clashes and violence". Favor Bancin, of the Synod of the churches in Indonesia is of the same opinion, adding: "The behavior of local authorities is a potential threat to the tolerant atmosphere we see deteriorating over time."

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world and, while guaranteeing the constitutional principles of religious freedom, it is more and more often the scene of attacks and violence against minorities, whether they are Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or of other faiths. In the province of Aceh - the only one in the Archipelago - the Islamic law (sharia) applies and in many other areas the influence of the Muslim religion in the lives of citizens is becoming more radical and extreme. In addition, certain rules such as the building permit - the infamous IMB - are exploited to prevent the building or close Christian places of worship, as is the case for some time in Bogor regency, West Java, for the faithful of the Yasmin Church .

Behind this upsurge is the current governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, who has spent years in exile in Sweden for his activities within the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). During his election campaign, the Islamic politician stated several times that "he would not hesitate to apply the Koranic laws in the province." And a few months after his election his words have become reality.

For its part, the central government is seeking to curb this trend. Interior Minister Gamawan Fauzi has repeatedly warned that these activities "are not acceptable. Indonesia exercises a spirit of pluralism and must continue to do so. Tolerance must be guaranteed and the majority can not crush the minority violating their civil rights ".

 

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