03/11/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Extremist Muslims force a Catholic "home" church to shut down

by Benteng Reges

A local priest told AsiaNews about the incident. The assailants "came from outside", and when informed about the case, the police "advised" the Catholic community "not to make too much fuss about the matter".

Java (AsiaNews) – The Islamic Defender Front, an Indonesian Islamic fundamentalist movement, has shut down a Catholic "home" church in Sumedang in Garut, around 350km from the capital Jakarta, and ordered local worshippers "not to search for another place where to profess their faith". This was confirmed to AsiaNews yesterday by a local priest.

The forced closure took place on 5 March when some members of the front – better known as the FPI (Front Pembela Islam) – ordered the owner of the house where Sunday masses were being held, to "immediately stop all liturgical activities".

The assailants demanded a million Indonesian rupees (around 100 dollars) as a bribe not to report the case of "resident Catholics breaking the law" to the local press. According to the priest who talked to AsiaNews – who will remain anonymous for security reasons – "the FPI members came from outside, they are not residents here."

In Indonesia, local Catholics in remote areas sometimes decide to select a home or kiosk – owned by local Catholics – for liturgical activities. As a parish would not have been officially established, this phase is known as "stasi", the preliminary stage to the long bureaucratic procedure to erect a proper church.

After their chapel was shut down, a group of Catholics went to the police to denounce the case but "for the sake of keeping peace in the area", they were "advised" not to make too much fuss.

The latest incident reveals how the new decrees enacted a few days ago by the government for the construction of religious buildings still need to be applied, although they have already been approved.

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