Protestant pastor stabbed, religious freedom attacked
by Mathias Hariyadi
A group of unknown assailants stabbed Rev Afian Sihombing. Currently, he is in hospital in critical conditions. Rev Luspida Simanjutak, head of a Protestant community in Pondonk Bekasi, was also injured. Activists and priests react to the incident saying such actions are an attack against pluralism, a pillar of Indonesian society.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A group of eight unknown assailants stabbed Rev Afian Sihombing and sent him to hospital where he is in critical conditions with multiple knife wounds to the stomach. The Protestant clergyman heads a local Protestant community in East Pondonk Bekasi Regency. He was attacked along with Rev Luspida Simanjutak, head of the Huria Batak Kristen Protestan. She too was injured, to the face, the head and the back.

According to preliminary reports, the two religious were attacked because they had not given up on the idea of holding an open air Mass in Ciketing Asem, a small location in the regency, despite violent protests by some local Muslim fundamentalists.

Police have denied the allegations, saying that yesterday’s attack did not have any religious connotation.

Human rights activists and local priests disagree. According to Todung Mulya Lubis, a well-known human rights lawyer, “This is a clear act against the right to worship. It is a serious violation of the fundamental identity of Indonesia, which is to strongly respect pluralism.”

“The stabbing shows how Indonesians are starting to be less tolerant today, unlike the past,” said Fr Franz Magnis Suseno, a Jesuit priest. “I believe we should practice more tolerance rather than just discuss it.”

Human rights activist Rachland Nasidhik called on the government “to move against those who oppose religious freedom and other faiths. These hard-line groups are not only operating at the local level, but are starting to be influential at the national level, including inside the government where some ministers are pursuing policies that contradict the country’s spirit of pluralism. Religious freedom, which is one of Indonesia’s pillars, is under attack. Intolerance towards minorities is dangerously growing.”

Speaking to AsiaNews three weeks ago, Rev Simanjutak said she would continue her mission without fear despite growing threats against Christians. She insisted then that they had a right to worship in the open.