Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Anti-Christian intolerance is raising its ugly head again. Islamic fundamentalist groups are increasingly trying to stop the construction of churches in areas where the Catholic Church is present. Government slowness in reacting to such phenomena has come under fire because it effectively adds more fuel to the flames of intolerance fanned by such groups (See Mathias Hariyadi, “Religious intolerance rising among Indonesian Muslims,” in AsiaNews 5 October 2010)
The most recent example of this trend involves the Saint Mother Teresa Parish in Cikarang, some 60 kilometres east of Jakarta. The situation here is the more worrisome since Indonesian authorities have shown little or no desire to intervene in the matter, and this despite sharp criticism from inter-faith and human rights groups.
In recent days, some provocative banners opposing plans to build a new church in Cikarang have appeared. “The Islamic Group Ukuwah Islamiyah rejects any plan to construct a church in Bunda Teresa Cikarang,” read one banner displayed in front of a local mosque in Taman Sentosa Cikarang.
Another one on Bandung Street, in Cinere, carried the same message but against another Christian place of worship slated for construction only 200 metres from a local police station.
In both cases, it is clear that the lack of action by the authorities against this kind of protests to ensure a spirit of harmony between religions has fuelled intolerance.
Opposition to the Mother Teresa Church in Cikarang started in September when someone began spreading rumours about the potential “Christianisation” of the Bekasi Regency (district), a predominantly Muslim area.
According to the rumour, a church and other buildings would be built that together would constitute the largest Christian centre in Asia.
Opponents to the Church charged that the latter would become a magnet for proselytising, thus threatening the district’s Muslim majority.
Saint Mother Teresa Parish was founded in 2004 and has a congregation of some 6,000 members. It does not have a church building, and has to celebrate Mass in the gym of a local Catholic school.
In recent weeks, Bekasi Regency has seen a number of episodes of intolerance directed at Christians from different confessions. Since 2009, at least six churches have been attacked and several Protestant clergymen have been the victims of assault.