Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Municipal authorities in Blitar, a town in East Java province, are threatening to shut down six Catholic schools "by 19 January" if the latter do not provide Islamic courses and readings of the Qur'an to their Muslim students, in accordance with regional bylaw n. 8 of 2012, which requires all Muslim students to receive Islamic courses in school. The latter is based on a national law, the National Education Act n. 55 of 2007.
The six Catholic schools at risk are the Diponegoro Catholic High School, the Catholic Vocational Training High School, Saint Mary KG, Saint Mary Elementary School, and Yos Sudarso Catholic Elementary and Yos Sudarso Catholic Junior High School.
The schools received the municipal injunction in the final days of 2012, but their administrators have refused to comply with the directive by 19 January, this according to the head of the local department of the Religious Affairs Ministry.
So far, school administrators have not released any official statement on the matter because of the sensitive nature of the issue. Before expressing any opinion, they are set to take part in meetings with Catholic leaders.
Sources within the schools note however that Muslim students and their families had accepted their teaching programmes "without complaining." No one has ever "objected on religious grounds".
In fact, it has been a long established practice that Indonesia's private Christian schools, including those run by the Catholic Church, are not required to offer courses on Islam or readings of the Qur'an as in public schools. Instead, they provide courses and seminars on Christianity and catechism.
Muslim students who attend these schools can for their part take courses on Islam sponsored by their respective Muslim group.