» 07/29/2010, 00.00
Christians in Bekasi forced to celebrate in the open air under police protection
Islamic extremists have targeted the HKBP community for years. Christians have been denied the right to build their own places of worship, have seen facilities used for services shut down, and have had to endure insults and threats during open-air celebrations. “I will never give up seeking justice,” Rev Luspida Simanjutak says. “Law enforcement performance has been very poor. Security officials have been hopeless and silent on this crucial matter, “NGO laments.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The members of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan or HKBP) celebrated Mass last Sunday in an open field in Ciketing, a suburb of Bekasi (West Java), under the protection of hundreds of police agents.
The HKBP community has been the target of Islamic extremists for years. Muslims have shut down their church twice and prevented them from holding services in private locations. This month, they have begun to disrupt open-air Sunday services with threats and insults. In the first six months of the year, there were 28 anti-Christian attacks across Indonesia, seven in the city of Bekasi alone.
Rev Luspida Simanjytak, who heads the HKBP community, said she would never give in to continuous violence. “I will never give up seeking justice,” she told AsiaNews. “I shall fight for the most fundamental of human rights, the right to worship God and profess our faith.”
In Indonesia, the country with the greatest number of Muslims in the world, the constitution guarantees everyone’s right to practice their faith.
“Why do we have to suffer like this?” the pastor asked when she spoke to AsiaNews after explaining that local administration officials have not done anything yet to help them.
The HKBP community has been in Bekasi for more than 20 years and can count on about 1,500 members. Islamic extremists are against them, especially charging them with proselytising.
“We speak Batak,” Rev Simanjytak said, “our native language. How can we proselytise if others do not understand it.”
After 500 Islamic extremists from the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) and the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) surrounded the field on 18 July where they hold their Sunday services, she filed a complaint with the West Java State Administrative Court against the Bekasi municipality.
For Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice president of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, an NGO involved in the defence of human rights, the fault lies with the local administration.
“Such violent actions by Muslim extremists are possible only because law enforcement performance has been very poor. Security officials have been hopeless and silent on this crucial matter.”
Bekasi Christians not intimidated by pressures from Islamic extremists
For months, hundreds of radical Muslims have threatened Christians and interrupted the functions of the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP). Rev Luspida Simanjutak, the community’s pastor, tells AsiaNews that she is not afraid of the extremists, and that she will continue to defend freedom of religion.
Record number of anti-Christian attacks in 2010
Between January and July, 28 incidents were recorded compared to 18 for the whole of 2009 and 17 for 2008. Bekasi holds the record. “It seems that people and the government do not realise that the right to worship, as stipulated in the Constitution, comes with the right to have a house of worship,” says the deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy.
Muslim leader detained in anti-Christian attack
Police announce that Muharli Barda, notorious head of the Islamic Defender Front in Bekasi, is a suspect in the case. Nine other people are involved, but their names have not yet been made public as the authorities continue to investigate the stabbing of a Christian clergyman.
West Java: Christians bring their protest to the UN after their Church is closed
Municipal authorities want to prevent Christians from conducting any public activity. After unsuccessfully seeking remedy with a number of Indonesian agencies, Yasmin Church members are launching an appeal to the United Nations for discrimination and persecution.
Protestant pastor stabbed, religious freedom attacked
A group of unknown assailants stabbed Rev Afian Sihombing. Currently, he is in hospital in critical conditions. Rev Luspida Simanjutak, head of a Protestant community in Pondonk Bekasi, was also injured. Activists and priests react to the incident saying such actions are an attack against pluralism, a pillar of Indonesian society.
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