08/23/2005, 00.00
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Gus Dur: "No more attacks against Christians"

by Mathias Hariyadi

The former president and leader of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation is ready to send paramilitaries to West Java to defend Christians from fundamentalist attacks.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Kiai Haj Abdurrahman Wahid – Indonesia's most renowned Muslim leader, better known as Gus Dur – has issued a strong appeal to the extremist group, Islamic Defender Front, to stop all hostilities against Christians in Indonesia. Gus Dur was once president of the nation and he is currently president of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia which boasts more than 40 million members.

During a press conference he warned that he would not hesitate to send youth of the Barisan Serba Guna (a paramilitary section of the NU – ed.note) to Bandung – the capital of West Java – to help Christians defend themselves against extremist attacks.

The appeal of Gus Dur comes after a series of 23 attacks against Protestant churches perpetrated by the Islamic Defender Front in recent months. "I strongly urge FPI leaders and its members to consider seriously my warning. I want this message clearly understood, that you have made two serious mistakes by closing churches and by attacking the Ahmadiyah (an Islamic sect held to be heretical by extremists – ed.note)". Gus Dur also had something to say to the government: "President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has things to do to put an end to this situation. If not, then the NU's Banser from East Java will do the job under my direct orders."

Gus Dur raised the situation in West Java after a meeting with two pastors of the Christian Synod of Churches, Rev. Weinata Sairin and Rev. Jan Sera Aritonang. He also turned to Christians being persecuted: "Ignore the warnings and threats from the Front, behave as if they did not exist". The two pastors expressed their hope that the government will soon give them the go-ahead to set up more churches. "We strongly hope the Bandung authorities will soon give the permission to construct churches so people can attend services," Rev. Sairin told the press.

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