Central Java, Islamic extremists against celebrations for Fr. Utomo's 50th anniversary of priesthood
by Mathias Hariyadi
The Church celebrates the jubilee of Fr. Gregorius Utomo, valued contributor to the Indonesian Bishops' Conference. The community organized a series of events and a solemn celebration of the Eucharist, which the Islamists oppose. Archbishop of Semarang tells AsiaNews: "false accusations against him artfully made up by the media and newspapers."

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Islamic extremists are threatening to block celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Fr. Gregorius Utomo, scheduled for tomorrow, July 2. Relatives, friends and the faithful have organized a series of events and a solemn Eucharistic celebration, scheduled in the private chapel of prayer known as Wisma Tyas Dalem (House of the Sacred Heart). The building is located in the village of Rejoso, sub-district of Jogonalan, in the regency of Klaten, in central Java, the birthplace of the priest. For years it has been used for prayer and ceremonies of inculturation, like the mass of "Rebo Pon." In recent days, on the eve of the celebrations, the fundamentalists of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have, however, warned Fr. Utomo and faithful to stop all religious activities in program: they accuse the priest of using the house "in an illegal manner."

The "House of the Sacred Heart" - under the administration of the parish of Our Lady of Wedi - was originally a private residence, owned by the Utomo family. Over the years, the priest turned it into a center for "humanitarian" activities directed especially to the poor, as well as a "house of prayer" for the Catholic community in the area.

Fr. Gregorius Utomo belongs to the Archdiocese of Semarang - where his work is known and appreciated - and for years he has worked with the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) in Jakarta. He has inspired the movement for the protection of the rights of peasants and the day dedicated by the Church to access to food.

Responding to themthreats from Muslim extremists the leaders of the Indonesian Church, defended the work of Fr. Utomo (pictured). In a personal letter Msgr. Johannes Pujasumarta, Archbishop of Semarang, rejects accusations of the Islamist front, according to which the faithful want to turn Wisma Tyas Dalem in a house of "permanent" prayer. The prelate stresses that this claim has been "artfully falsified" by online media and newspapers, to "discredit" the figure of the priest. "I personally asked - he adds - the Catholic media to enhance the figure of Fr. Gregorius Utomo and the activities accomplished in his 50 years of priesthood."

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world and while the constitutional principles ensure religious freedom, it is increasingly the scene of attacks and violence against minorities, be they Christian, Ahmadi Muslims or other faiths. In the province of Aceh is governed by Islamic law, the Sharia - the only one in the archipelago -, and in many other areas the Muslim religion's influence in people's lives is becoming more radical and extreme. In addition, some rules such as building permits - the infamous IMB - are exploited to prevent the building or close down Christian places of worship, as is the case for some time in the regency of Bogor, West Java, for the faithful of the Yasmin Church .