07/22/2015, 00.00
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Possible attacks on churches trigger high security alert in Indonesia

by Mathias Hariyadi
This follows the burning of two Protestant churches in Central Java, ostensibly sparked by an arson attack against a mosque in Papua during celebrations marking the end of Ramadan. Mainstream and social media have failed to report that a 15-year-old Christian boy was killed by police in the latter incident. The government urges people not to give in to provocations.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian authorities are on high alert across the country against possible new attacks against churches, this after two Christian places of worship were recently set on fire in Central Java in response to an arson attack that destroyed a small mosque in Papua during the celebrations for the end of Ramadan.

Senior Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno personally issued orders deploying police and the military at such sites, in particular in Jakarta and central Java.

"President Joko Widodo sent a message to police, military and intelligence agencies to watch out and protect churches and other sites of vital importance,” Purdijatno said. 

The Indonesian minister invited ordinary people not to give in to acts or provocations by members of other religions. He also set up a team of investigators from the National Human Rights Commission to shed light on the affair.

The recent spate of violence was sparked by a fire at a small mosque in Tolikara, a district in the eastern province of Papua, during the Eid al Fitr celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims.

In reaction to this incident, two Protestant churches were set on fire in Central Java. Anti-Christian violence also broke out in Surakarta and other locations in the province. 

Many fear that violence and persecution against Christians could escalate, fuelled by rumors about what happened in Tolikara.

What is more, mainstream and social media have focused on fire at the mosque but ignored the fact that police fired at Christians, killing a 15-year-old boy and wounding others.

In view of the situation, the authorities have sent senior government officials to Tolikara district to restore calm and security.

Yesterday, top police and army officials met dozens of ulema and Muslim religious leaders, asking for their cooperation to restore peace and coexistence between Muslims and Christians in the area.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Increasingly however, it has become the scene of attacks or episodes of intolerance against minorities, whether they are Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or people who belong to other faiths.

In addition, building regulations are often used to stop non-Muslims from having their own places of worship, as was the case for the Yasmin Church in West Java.

Although the constitution guarantees Christians the right of freedom of religion, they have suffered from acts of violence and religious persecution.

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