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    » 08/05/2011, 00.00

    INDONESIA

    Sumatra: Ramadan begins with the burning of two Protestant churches

    Mathias Hariyadi

    A crowd of at least 100 people attacked and torched a prayer centre of the Christian Batak Synod (Hkbp). They had previously attacked another Christian church five miles away. The violence took place on the first day of the holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims.
    Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A mob of a hundred people attacked and set fire to two Protestant house churches in Logas Tanah Darat, in the Regency of Kuantan, Riau Province (Sumatra). The incident occurred August 1, coinciding with the start of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims, but the news was broadcast by a radio station in Jakarta only late yesterday afternoon. The new attack against the Christian minority, according to some experts, is also a consequence of the "soft" sentences recently imposed by courts against extremists and Islamic leaders in Indonesia.

    One of the two places of worship burned belonged to the Protestant Christian Batak Synod (Hkbp). Sahat Tarigan, leader of the Protestant Christian Karo, reports of at least 100 people who gathered around the building, chanting hostile slogans and brandishing weapons. Suddenly the assailants poured gasoline over the place of worship, then set it on fire. Previously, the crowd had attacked another house church located about five kilometers away. The Christian leader added that "our people have nothing to do with the assailants," who struck on Aug. 1 to coincide with the start of Ramadan.

    The Christian prayer centers were situated in an area with a Muslim majority, but there are no records of episodes of violence or intolerance in the past. "In short - Tarigan Sahat concludes - we have no idea why they set fire [to the church]."

    However, in Indonesia there are frequent cases of violence against religious minorities and places of worship. And the police, instead of pursuing those responsible, justify the fires - as happened in the last case - arguing that the churches are built of wood "and so burn easily." Added to this is the inertia of the judges and courts which impose laughable penalties against extremists and Islamic leaders who foment violence or commit heinous crimes (see AsiaNews 29/07/2011, Light sentences for Muslim extremists who attacked Ahmadis AsiaNews 18/06/2011, Central Java, Justice held in check only one year for imam who ordered attack on three churches).


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    See also

    29/07/2010 INDONESIA
    Christians in Bekasi forced to celebrate in the open air under police protection
    Islamic extremists have targeted the HKBP community for years. Christians have been denied the right to build their own places of worship, have seen facilities used for services shut down, and have had to endure insults and threats during open-air celebrations. “I will never give up seeking justice,” Rev Luspida Simanjutak says. “Law enforcement performance has been very poor. Security officials have been hopeless and silent on this crucial matter, “NGO laments.

    19/08/2010 INDONESIA
    Bekasi Christians not intimidated by pressures from Islamic extremists
    For months, hundreds of radical Muslims have threatened Christians and interrupted the functions of the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP). Rev Luspida Simanjutak, the community’s pastor, tells AsiaNews that she is not afraid of the extremists, and that she will continue to defend freedom of religion.

    16/08/2010 INDONESIA
    Jakarta, Bekasi Protestant Christians sit in outside Presidential Palace
    Members of the Batak Protestant Church (Hkbp) seek justice outside the residence of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. For years the Hkbp has been targeted by Islamic extremists, who prevent their worship.

    07/12/2011 INDONESIA
    Indonesians celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Batak Protestant Church
    Delegations representing moderate Muslim groups take part in the celebrations, which began last Sunday in great pomp in Jakarta’s main stadium in the presence of 100,000 people, including Indonesian President Yudhoyono. More events are scheduled for the coming weeks in various cities.

    24/02/2011 INDONESIA
    Bekasi, assault on a Protestant church: mild sentences for Islamic leaders
    The head of the Islamic Defenders Front, the main defendant, received a sentence of 5 months and 15 days. Six and seven months in jail for two other accomplices. In the attack, which occurred last September, a Protestant pastor was seriously injured. The Christian community’s lawyer assesses the appeal.



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