05/07/2014, 00.00
INDONESIA

West Sumatra: Altar destroyed in arson attack on Catholic church

Mathias Hariyadi
The bishop of Padang confirms to AsiaNews that part of the church of St. Mary of the Ascension has been damaged. The attacker is still unknown, but the police are on his trail. The place of worship is in a rural area of the province of West Sumatra , the second worst for “Islamic fundamentalism” after Aceh.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - An arson attack almost destroyed the Catholic church of St. Mary of the Ascension, located in a rural area of Kinali district (West Pasaman) in Indonesia's West Sumatra province. The incident occurred on May 4 , just before the Sunday mass. Bishop Martinus D. Situmorang OFM , of the local Diocese of Padang , confirmed what happened to AsiaNews, and said that the police are investigating. There is allegedly one author of the attack of unknown identity.

Local sources say they saw a man on a motorcycle near the church the day before the fire. Not recognizing him, some people approached him to ask him what he wanted. The man said he was looking for an area to organize a "cock fight". People have explained that this was not a local tradition, and the individual left.

The following day, other people say they saw another man in the vicinity of the church, and believing him to be part of the staff, did not disturb him . A few minutes later some of the faithful saw the smoke coming from the place of worship. Initial reports say the assailant has soaked the altar in kerosene and set it on fire. Once extinguished, the altar bore the brunt of the damage , but the crucifix remained intact.

The church of Santa Maria Ascension is about 160 km from the Diocese of Padang . 99% of the local Catholic faithful is made up of migrants from Java , who work in the palm tree plantations.

The Diocese of Padang covers the entire territory of the province of West Sumatra and some tiny islands of Mentawai. Unlike these atolls, where the population is mostly Catholic, Christian or animist, West Sumatra is predominantly Muslim and is considered the second most "fundamentalist" area of Indonesia after Aceh province.

 

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