Controversy over no cross on Christian grave in Yogyakarta Islamic cemetery
by Mathias Hariyadi

About 150 families, 147 Muslim and three Christian, live in Purbayan, including that of the deceased. Residents were in favour of his burial in the local cemetery but religious symbols are banned. The upper part of the cross was removed with the family’s permission. For Catholic activist, the "uproar occurred on social media and outside the village”. Locals have no issues.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Pictures of a Christian grave with a sawn-off cross has come to symbolise anti-Christian intolerance in Purbayan, in Kotagede, a sub-district of Yogyakarta (island of Java). Yesterday, outrage swept social media, but eventually what really happened emerged.

Hans Supatman, a local activist for religious dialogue and member of the Kerukunan Forum Umat Beragama (FKUB) gave AsiaNews an account of the events.

Albertus Slamet Sugihardi, a 63-years-old Catholic man, lived Purbayan, home to some 150 families, 147 Muslim and three Christian. He worked as an ambulance driver until his death from a heart attack, two days ago.

His family wanted to bury him elsewhere, but because he lived near the Jambon public cemetery they decided to lay him to rest there. However, in 2000, the graveyard was reserved for Muslims. Still, neighbours told the Christian family they could bury him near where he had lived.

However, based on local community standards, it is not possible "to place religious symbols in the cemetery". For this reason, the upper part of wooden cross on the grave was removed (picture 1).

This was not an act of vandalism and was done in full agreement with the deceased’s family. The latter had already prepared the material for his burial before the heart attack.

"There is no grudge between the family and neighbours,” Supatman explained. “Everything is fine and even the funeral service was done quietly." The ceremony took place in St Paul's Parish church in Pringgolayan "to make things easier".

A few years ago, the activist said, a group of Islamic extremists from outside Kotagede came to the area and broke up choir rehearsals at a local Catholic home.

The cemetery "uproar occurred on social media and outside the village,” the activist noted. “Everything is fine here and everyone is happy. Church authorities in Yogyakarta offered psychological assistance to deal with the emotional stress experienced by Albertus Slamet Sugihardi’s family.”

"Residents and the interfaith forum (FKUB) held meetings in Kotagede (picture 2) to discuss the issue and all participants agreed to counter the distorted information and comments, which are threatening local harmony."