06/05/2007, 00.00
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West Java: another Christian church attacked

Shouting ‘Allah u Akbar’, a group of men storm a church Sunday in Bandung in West Java. The incident confirms a trend involving many attempts to suppress religious freedom in the predominantly Muslim country. A survey by a British human rights group shows that West Java is a hotbed of Indonesia’s anti-Christian movements.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Another Christian church attacked this week in Bandung (West Java). The incident occurred last Sunday when people broke into the Sidang Jemaat Allah Church in Gading Tutuka (Soreang). Shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest), the attackers stormed the church at around 9.30 am. They struck the reverend’s wife in the head with a Bible and stopped the children’s Sunday school activities. They also destroyed four images of the Christ.

A witness said attackers claimed to be from the Anti-Apostasy Movement Alliance (AGAP) and acted to stop the church’s activities because they said it lacked the necessary permits to perform its services.

AGAP representatives denied however that any of its members were involved in the incident. Hedi Muhammad, from the Anti-Apostate Division of the Islamic Ulema Forum (FUUI), an organisation that backs AGAP, denied any involvement as well.

Under rules laid down by Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni a place of worship can be set up if it is approved by 60 residents of any given area and has at least 90 members.

A woman who has regularly attended the Church said that it got its permits for religious services seven years ago.

Whatever the case may be, Sunday’s incident confirms a dangerous trend involving repeated attempts to suppress religious freedom in this predominantly Muslim country.

This trend is especially strong in West Java where many churches and other places of worship have been shut down by Muslim extremists. Since September 2004 more than 30 churches have been forced to close this way.

A survey by a British human rights group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), shows that West Java is a hotbed of anti-Christian movements in Indonesia.

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