10/29/2009, 00.00
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Jakarta, more violence against students of Christian theology

by Mathias Hariyadi
The police chased the students of Setia from the temporary seat set up in former town hall in West Jakarta. A group of students and teachers is under investigation, five arrested. In July 2008 a Muslim mob had attacked their school, forcing the students to flee. The Christian building wanted by a construction company.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Police in Jakarta has driven the students of Christian theological Institute Arastamar (STT Setia) from the land of the former town hall in West Jakarta. The students were holding their lessons there after they were forcibly removed - in July 2008 - from their campus in Kampung Makassar, east of the capital. The raid police started on 26 October. After three days of clashes and protests by Christians for their umpteenth banishment, a group of students and some teachers were indicted on charges of resisting a public officer. Five students were arrested, pending trial.

In the summer of 2008 a mob of angry Muslims stormed the original headquarters of the theological Christian Institute, in East Jakarta. The violence was sparked by accusations – perfectly fabricated- of the theft of a motorcycle by a student and the illegal construction of the Christian’s building. In Indonesia, in fact, stringent laws govern the construction of churches or non-Muslim institutions, for which a specific authorization is needed.     

Following the assault, about 1,500 students have had to leave the building, initially taking refuge in the nearby police headquarters and the headquarters of a political party of Christian inspiration. The Setia, Protestant biblical studies institute, founded in 1987 by Pastor Mathew Mangentang, has over 29 branches around the country and the Jakarta branch hosted thousands of students.

Having escaped the violence of Islamic fundamentalists, students and professors set up a makeshift school at the site of the former government office in West Jakarta. But that building had long been disputed between the municipality and the Sawerigading foundation. Recently, the Indonesian Supreme Court ruled that ownership of land and the building belongs to the foundation. Following the ruling, the police implemented the measure to clear the site, despite the resistance of the young Christians.  

Sukowaluyo Mintorahardjo, leader of Setia, strongly denies the charge that the institute falsified documents for the construction of buildings, as advanced by some Muslim personalities. "It's a false and baseless charge – he says - as we had all the permits from the outset”. Referring to the attacks of July 2008, he adds economic issues are at the heart of the matter. "About 8 / 10 years ago a construction company approached us, and instead of engaging in a friendly deal - he explains - we were ordered to leave."

The area where the Christian theological Arastamar Institute (STT Setia) is situated, in fact, has a high commercial value and is in the hands of a single construction company. The fact remains that - to date - the Christian students have no place to carry out the lessons, a group of pupils and teachers are under investigation, and five students have been arrested.

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