07/24/2007, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Radical Muslims block conference at Carmelite Prayer Centre

by Benteng Reges
The Lembah Karmel Cikanyere had applied for a police permit, but the real reason for protests against it lies in a desire to shut it down after local Muslims claimed it had “caused controversies among people.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Muslim fundamentalists continue their action against the Lembah Karmel Cikanyere, the Carmelite Prayer Centre on Cikanyere Hill, in Cianjur Regency (West Java). An international conference scheduled to take place at the centre was postponed as a result of their pressure.

The decision was taken at the end of a so-called dialogue between centre representatives and a number of Islamic fundamentalist groups. This was followed by more demonstrations by the same groups.

The fundamentalists used the dialogue, which involved local officials and a delegate from military police, to raise many objections against the international conference. Far from being an inter-faith rapprochement, the meeting was pressure session against Catholics to force them to call off the conference.

After talking to some 50 Muslim representatives and announcing the postponement of the conference, Sister Lisa Martosudjito PKarm, the Centre’s spokesperson, told reporters that her convent had duly applied for an authorisation to hold the conference at Indonesian police headquarters on July 8. A copy of the application had been sent to the Cianjur police district. Still she said, “if our Muslim brothers feel that the procedures were inappropriate then we shall suspend the conference.”

Sister Lisa told protesters that the conference was supposed to last till July 29 and “essentially involved prayers and family meetings among lay Catholics” from Indonesia and abroad from the ‘Holy Trinity’ group.

She said that over the last week-end mass was celebrated peacefully several times and denied that protests against the centre involved thousands of Muslims as some had claimed.

Deny Saepulrohman, an outspoken local Muslim leader, welcomed the decision to suspend the conference, claiming that it was illegal and did not have a police permit.

“We have no objections to the meeting as long as it is held far from Cikanyere in Cianjur,” he said, adding that the centre had raised concerns among local Muslims.

“It is illegal to organise an international conference at a shrine that has caused controversies among people,” he alleged again. “And the government should re-examine whether the centre should exist at all. Still, whatever its decision we shall back it.”

For any secular Indonesian such claims are tendentious and betray a clear goal of closing down the Carmelite Prayer Centre.

For his part Cianjur Police Chief Saiful Zahri stated that the decision to postpone the conference was taken by the Centre itself without any pressure from Muslims.

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