11/13/2014, 00.00
INDONESIA - ISLAM

West Java: Islamic extremists stop Catholics celebrating Mass

by Mathias Hariyadi
Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Formasi blocked the celebrations of 9 November. The Pastor of St. Odilia avoids the devastation of the place of worship by removing the sacred objects in time. The Protestant community previously targeted. First challenge in terms of religious freedom for the reformist president Jokowi.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - After attacking the Protestant community, extremist groups of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Formasi (Forum of Indonesian Islamic community) have attacked Catholics, blocking the celebration of Mass over the weekend and preventing the faithful from gathering.

The warning was launched in a series of text messages that started circulating in recent days and were confirmed later by Fr. Saptono, priest of the parish of St. Odilia in Cinunuk, in the regency of Bandung (West Java province). The complex of St. Charles Borromeo was targeted in the November 9 raid when it was surrounded by dozens of extremists - shouting insulting slogans and mafia-style messages - who blocked the celebration of Sunday Mass.

The FPI and the Formasi members threatened to burn the property if, in the future, Masses or other Christian services are celebrated. To avoid the worst damage, the priest - while engaged in a discussion with some representatives of the extremist groups - asked the faithful to remove the sacred objects and symbols of faith.

A move that has convinced the extremists to curb their destructive folly, on the back of a promise by the priest that there would be no more celebrations in the structure. Addressing the faithful, Fr. Saptono spoke of a t "shocking" even for a private community and abuse of their right to prayer and to the free practice of worship "after 16 years of peaceful existence".

The presence of Catholics in the area dates back to 1995. "After the four Protestant churches blocked since 11 October - adds the priest - it is now the turn of the Catholic community." Limitations on the practice of worship concern not only the communities of Cinunuk, but also locations scattered in West Java, one of the areas most at risk from intolerance or sectarian violence. These attacks have not only affected Christians but also other minorities, including Ahmadis and Shias.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, where Catholics are 3 per cent of the population, is becoming as one of the main centres of Islamic activism in the Asia-Pacific region.  As AsiaNews recently reported, fundamentalist movements and local Muslim leaders have found inspiration in the exploits of Sunni fighters in Syria and Iraq and plan to support the struggle for the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, even in Asia. The new government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and neo Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnomo, better known as Ahok, number two Widodo when he headed the capital, will have their hands full in trying to stem this extremist drift that was endorsed for years by the previous government.

 

 

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