Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Islamic extremist groups in the district of Bekasi, about 25 km east of Jakarta, have launched an ultimatum to the faithful of Galilee Church : end religious activities because they "incite disharmony" between Muslims and promote proselytizing . Indonesian Protestant Church leaders respond that the charitable initiatives do not hide ulterior motives and true conversions "must come from the heart." Meanwhile, the faithful of the Catholic church of Saint Mary have won the legal battle against the authorities of Purwakarta, the place of worship has obtained the building permit, revoked recently by the local government.
Galilee Church is located in the Taman Galaxy, in the sub-district of Jaka Setia, South Bekasi. On 15 February last at least 16 fundamentalist movements in the area ordered the faithful to stop the practice of worship and charitable initiatives. According to the hard-line Islamic front, they foment "discord" between Muslims and "hide their aim to proselytise”. Murhali Barda, a local leader of the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), adds that the Protestant community is not in possession of the necessary documents - the building permit (IMB) - to develop a place of worship.
Leading Christian and Muslim figures in Indonesia have expressed concern and are attempting to calm the row. Slamet Effendy Jusuf, a former Golkar politician, head of the Committee for Interreligious Dialogue in the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) states that "the initiative launched by extremist groups is against the law" and Muslims "have to go to the police" if they are in possession of evidence that testifies attempts of forced conversion. Pastor Gomar Gultom, secretary general of the Synod of Protestant Churches (PGI), confirms support for charitable activities but "conversions are out of the question" beacuse a change of faith "must come from the heart."
The police, meanwhile, reject the accusations of inefficiency and their slow pace in defending the Christian communities that end up in the crosshairs of Islamic extremists. Speaking at a public debate in Jakarta yesterday, the inspector general Soedjarwo Imam stated their response is not slow, but "open-minded," "to prevent an escalation of violence against minorities, specifically the Christians." Confirming this climate of tension, Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace has issued a new document which shows that in 2009 there were over 200 cases of violations of religious freedom.
But some good news has emerged from the Indonesian archipelago. An email sent to Mgr. Johannes Pujasumarta Pr, Bishop of Bandung, explains that the Church of Saint Mary has won the lawsuit against the authorities in Purwakarta. The building permit (IMB), previously withdrawn by the local government, was confirmed by the courts, so the faithful can have a place of worship to pray and celebrate mass.
The Civil Court issued the verdict in Bandung on 15 February. Now the building has now been officially aggregated to the parish church of the Holy Cross. The originally small chapel, therefore will now be transformed into a small parish - founded in January 2009 - which will have as its patron saint, the Virgin Mary.