West Java, attack on a Protestant community
by Mathias Hariyadi

A member of the HKBP in Amansari was targeted. Behind the violence, extremist groups suspect that the house was being used as a place of worship. Advisor to the Minister for Religious Affairs: "Gestures contrary to the principles" of all religions. The Synod of the Protestant Church calls for justice and religious freedom. 



Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Indonesian government and moderate religious movements have condemned the attack - which took place at the end of October but which has only emerged  in recent days - against a member of the Protestant Huria Batak Church (HKBP) in Amansari, in the district of Karawang, East Java province.

The violence was provoked by the unfournded rumors that spread among extremist groups and local radicals that the man's house was actually used as a place of worship and, inside, prayer services and meetings were held. 

Among the critical voices is that of Mohammad Nuruzzaman, a close collaborator of the Minister for Religious Affairs Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, who yesterday intervened publicly to condemn the attack and express solidarity with the Synod of the Indonesian Protestant Church (PGI). "Violent gestures of this nature - he said - are illegal and contrary to all the principles of any religion." Events of this kind, he added, should not happen because even in the event of disputes, problems can be resolved "peacefully".

Local sources report that the incident occurred on October 29, when a group - not yet identified - of Islamic radicals attacked the house, damaging it. In recent days, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has sent a team to the area, to launch an investigation and find a solution in collaboration with the Karawang Forum for Interreligious Dialogue (Fkub). 

In the meantime, the PGI has also intervened with an official note on its website, in which it confirms that the house where the attack took place is a private residence, never used as a place of worship. It has hosted meetings among the faithful, in which they discussed the "preparatory methods" of functions or celebrations, but only on the organizational level. The Reverend Henrek Lokra, responsible for Justice and Peace of the Pgi, launches an appeal to the district managers to see that justice is done and the perpetrators punished according to the law, as well as to implement all initiatives aimed at containing the violence.

Among the basic reasons that triggered the attack, there is the difficulty encountered on several occasions by Christian communities in building a place of worship. The procedure for the construction of a church - Catholic or Protestant - as for all buildings is regulated by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (Imb), a kind of written resolution of the local authorities that allows the opening of a construction site. The matter is complicated for Christians: in addition to taking years, they need the authorization of at least 60 residents and the group for interreligious dialogue. Despite having the authorizations, construction is often interrupted and the permit revoked under pressure from Islamic extremists.