01/05/2010, 00.00
INDONESIA

West Java: Muslim extremists against Christians. Religious services blocked

Mathias Hariyadi
A crowd of protesters prevented the faithful reaching the church. Similar provocations on Christmas Day and 27 December. The protests provoked by the refusal to issue permission to build places of Christian worship. Activist for peace: the scenario is "worrying."

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Christian community of the regency of Bekasi, West Java province, is once again being targeted by Islamic fundamentalists. Sunday, January 3, hundreds of residents of the sub-district of Jejalen prevented the faithful of the Protestant Church of Philadelphia to participate in religious services. A representative of the Huria Batak Protestant Christians Group (Hkbp) – an umbrella group of various Protestant communities in the country - confirms that the "attackers blocked the access roads to the place of worship" stopping anyone trying to "travel the road that leads to church”.

Reverend Panjaitan, chairman of the Protestant Church of Philadelphia, was not present at the time of attack. He is in North Sumatra for a period of vacation and not reachable for comment. Local witnesses tell that the crowd, "shouted at the Christians", demanding the interruption of celebrations because "the place of worship does not have the building permit." The document issued by the authorities for the construction of buildings (IMB) follows an articulated procedure, which is further complicated in the case of Christian places of worship. Governmental permits, must also be cleared by the inhabitants of the area affected by the project. It may take up to 10 years to get to all the documents necessary.

Officials from the Hkbp have made available the necessary funds for the purchase of the land, but lack of a permit for construction which has blocked the work. The faithful erected a temporary building to celebrate functions: it is over a target of extremists, which prevent access to the place of worship. Demonstrations against the Christians were already held Christmas Day: the local community was preparing to attend functions, where a crowd chanted slogans and staged protests. The tense situation in the area was denounced before the holidays by Theophilus Bela, an activist for peace and interreligious dialogue. "The scenario is worrying – he confirms - and the same groups that demonstrated on Christmas Day, repeated their provocations December 27”. Previously, in conjunction with the new Islamic year, a mob of extremists attacked and damaged the Catholic Church of St. Albert at Harapan Indah, also in Bekasi regency. Thousands of demonstrators, including women and children, broke into the complex - under construction - and burned furniture and objects of worship.

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