West Java: Moderate Muslims defend the Yasmin Church's Christmas
by Mathias Hariyadi
Hundreds of members of Banser, a paramilitary group, moderate; have protected the Christmas celebrations of the GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor against the threat of radical Islam. Their presence has also been noted in central Java, to protect churches.
Bogor (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of Banser, the paramilitary group, the Muslim organization that responds to the orders of Nahdalatul Ulama (NU), the largest moderate Islamic association in the country, cooperated with the organization of the Church of Bogor to ensure the smooth progress of the Christmas holidays. The need for the involvement of the Banser became evident when rumours began circulating in Bogor that dozens of local Islamic radical elements would not hesitate to "dismantle" any celebration organized for Christmas by the GKI Yasmin Church, on the site owned by the GKI and where the construction of a church is opposed by the mayor. (12.23.2011 West Java: Islamic extremist groups threaten Catholics, Christmas celebrations at risk).

From the early hours of Christmas Eve, however, access to the site of the Yasmin Church was blocked by hundreds of police officers and other officials of the civil service in Bogor. So there was not much the faithful of the GKI could do other than move the Christmas celebrations elsewhere, namely to the residence of one of the faithful. However, the presence of dozens of Banser was provided in the new location, to ensure that the celebration should take place without problems.

Their presence was officially decided by Rome, Secretary General of the Banser, who said: "We are here to prevent any unexpected disturbance of the ceremonies by anyone." Rome said that about forty elements "of local radical groups" have come to discuss the problem. "They asked us to leave, but we refused their request." And besides the presence of dozens of Banser on the spot, another thousand were kept ready to intervene if the situation suddenly became dangerous.

Although the Christmas celebrations of the GKI Yasmin Church took place without major incident, as was expected, the Synod of Protestant Churches in Indonesia (PGI) will present an official complaint to the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Secretary General of the PGI, Pastor Gulton Gomar, said: "The president has made clear that no radical group in Indonesia would be allowed to object to our national platform, known as the Pancasila". "If any minister challenges the President’s order, then there is a serious cause for complaint."

The presence of members of Banser was also noted in Solo, Central Java, where hundreds of them have assured clam outside churches during Christmas celebrations. "Our presence here was agreed with the organization of the churches," said Nurkholis, a representative of the Banser youth group, GP Ansor. At the GKI Yasmin Church celebrations Inayah Wahid daughter of the late president Abdurrahman Wahid, and his aunt, Lily Wahid of the National Awakening Party (PKB) were also present.