Buddhist monk threatened by Islamists (Video)
by Mathias Hariyadi

He is accused of proselytism. Wrath of the radicals sparked by his charity work, he was forced to read and sign an admission of guilt. Authorities rule that the allegations made by the fundamentalists are groundless.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - In the village of Kebon Baru (Banten province), an unknown radical Islamic group forced the Buddhist monk Mulyanto Nurhalim to sign an agreement, in which the religious committed himself to abandon his home following accusations of proselytism . The episode happened last February 4, but was unearthed only six days after an online video that portrays the monk reading and signing the document went viral.

To wrath of the Islamists was sparked by a charity project undertaken by the Buddhist monk. Spreading fish eggs, he intended to transform an abandoned ditch, where the villagers once used to extract sand, into a peach nursery to be made available to the community. The extremists have however accused Mulyanto Nurhalim of wanting to proselytize local Muslims through his "emotional solicitation".

"I declare my intention to leave my house in Babad, Legok district, by February 10th - the monk states in the video reading a document - I undertake not hold rituals or recitations of prayer (at my house), since other Buddhists (from neighboring villages) have regularly visited to join me. Third parties consider their visits 'prayer activities' and raised the immediate concerns of the local population. If I violate this 'agreement', I will not object to legal action against me. This letter is signed without any intimidation". "Is it okay like that?", The monk exclaims towards the end of the movie, while a voiceover presses him to sign the sheet that he holds in his hands. "First you have to sign it, come on, sign it!", responds a man.

On  February 7, local authorities held a clarifying meeting in the presence of the monk and "third parties". Some villagers have accused the Buddhist religious of having used his home as a "secret prayer center" and have requested that no more sacred objects and accessories be introduced. Mulyanto Nurhalim rejected the accusations, saying that the Buddhists used to bring only food and other basic necessities. At the end of the discussion, the authorities decided that the accusations made by the fundamentalists are groundless and that regular visits by Buddhists can not be considered religious activities.

The concern of Indonesian civil society is the increase in episodes of religious intolerance towards minorities. Last December 27 in Banguntapan, a suburb of Yogyakarta (on the island of Java), groups of Islamic fundamentalists have disturbed and protested against the charitable works organized by the Catholic community of St. Paul's Pringgolayan.  Moderates also expressed harsh criticism at the address of Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, governor of the special statute region. Commenting on the affair, the monarch had declared that "there is no need to express one's religious identity, when doing charity".