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    » 11/13/2014, 00.00

    INDONESIA - ISLAM

    West Java: Islamic extremists stop Catholics celebrating Mass

    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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    See also

    05/09/2007 INDONESIA
    Domestic Church attacked; pastor and faithful injured
    Over 300 Islamic extremists attacked a protestant congregation gathered to celebrate Sunday service. The reason remains unclear. The Synod of Christian Churches expresses concern.

    30/06/2014 INDONESIA
    Yogyakarta, to cries of "Allah is great" unknown assailants attack Sacred Heart parish
    Three groups of unidentified persons on board motorcycles, launch attack during mass. Objects and posters damaged. Reasons for the violence unknown. Tighter controls around the place of worship. After decades of peaceful coexistence, Yogyakarta becomes center of anti-Christian violence and abuse.

    01/07/2013 INDONESIA
    Central Java, Islamic extremists against celebrations for Fr. Utomo's 50th anniversary of priesthood
    The Church celebrates the jubilee of Fr. Gregorius Utomo, valued contributor to the Indonesian Bishops' Conference. The community organized a series of events and a solemn celebration of the Eucharist, which the Islamists oppose. Archbishop of Semarang tells AsiaNews: "false accusations against him artfully made up by the media and newspapers."

    08/02/2010 INDONESIA
    Bekasi, anti-Christian persecution continues. A Protestant church targeted
    A crowd of 200 Muslims launches intimidating messages at the faithful and prohibits the use of a local church for Sunday services. The attackers claim to be residents of the area. Protestant pastor denies this: “definitely strangers". From 2009 to now at least 17 Christian churches targeted.

    28/11/2007 INDONESIA
    After 40 years a Catholic Church in West Java is forced to close
    Christ’s Peace Church has been active since 1968 now local Muslims are contesting the use of the buildings for religious purposes. With the backing of police and local politicians the extremists have won their battle: the parish does not have the legal permit and therefore must close down. For years the church had sought to obtain the permit without success, gaining only a staunch refusal from the government.



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