01/10/2014, 00.00
INDONESIA - ISLAM
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West Java: Islamists close down children’s public library

by Mathias Hariyadi
After weeks of intimidation and (unfounded) accusations of proselytism, the Taman Bacaan Masyarakat is forced to cease activities . The Executive Director, a Catholic , says that "for some time" a fundamentalist wing has hindered his work on behalf of children in rural areas. An activity open to all, regardless of religious faith.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - After weeks of pressure, intimidation and (unfounded) accusations of proselytism made by a local Islamic extremist group, the leaders of the Sanggar Rebung Cendani have closed a public library for children recently opened in West Java . The space especially for children, is called Taman Bacaan Masyarakat ( TBM , which stands for "center for free reading") and Kalimulya is a village in the district of Depock , in Bogor , in the Indonesian province of West Java .

The Executive Director Yoseph Budisantoso confirmed the shut down of his activity. "It all began in December, just before the Christmas holidays - he told AsiaNews - when some Islamic fundamentalist leaders made false accusations, accusing TBM of being a center devoted to Catholic proselytism." He adds that for some time now an extremist fringe has promoted attacks and provocations to cast a shadow over its humanitarian efforts and prevent it from promoting "education" in rural areas and among poorer sections of the population .

The Sanggar Rebung Cendani group, active in rural areas of the province, aims to drastically reduce illiteracy among children, as well as foster a passion for reading among children. The NGO also promotes programs focused on eco-friendly "green" and education policies, again aimed at children of the agricultural areas.

The various threats and demands launched by extremists against Sanggar Rebung Cendani include the demand to make public the names and addresses of all the benefactors and supporters of the various projects, and the amount of their donations. Budisantoso clarifies that all the initiatives undertaken so far by the group have had an interdenominational character, while proudly declaring his own Catholic faith. He also expressed his profound sorrow for the local people who had, on several occasions, shown great support and commitment to his humanitarian project, despite the insults and threats from extremists.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has seen a rise in the number of attacks or acts of intolerance against minorities, including Christians, Ahmadi Muslims and others. After the Aceh province in which Shariah law reigns, West Java is considered one of the most intolerant in the country. In recent years there has been an increase in Islamist anti- Christian movements, which on more than one occasion have committed acts of violence against the local Catholic and Protestant communities . An example are the dozens of assaults against the Yasmin Church in Bogor . The Ahmadi religious sect considered heretical Sunni Islam are also targeted. Catholics are a small minority of about seven million people, equivalent to about 3% of the population. The constitution provides for freedom of religion, but the community is the victim of incidents of violence and abuse.

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