09/07/2005, 00.00
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Christians fear attacks in the workplace

by Moerkekaq Senggotro
Catholics and Protestants are used to celebrating mass at their workplace on Friday when their Muslim colleagues go to mosques. The government pledges to review the law on places of worship.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian Christians are very concerned after Islamic fundamentalists forced the closure of home-based churches. They fear the latter might now turn on public buildings where Christians also hold religious services.

For some decades, especially in the big cities like Jakarta, different Christian groups have become used to praying, singing and celebrating mass during Friday's hours of rest, from 11 am to 13:30 pm, when their Muslim colleagues are at the mosque for prayers.

Christian workers use this time to worship at their workplace. Such services keep morale high in the minority communities and strengthen the sense of brotherhood among the faithful.

So far this has never bothered anyone. Private and public sector employers have usually allowed such practice. However, many Christians are now afraid and are writing to one another via e-mail to express their fears that someone might go and tell the Muslim extremists about it and thus provoke the latter into taking reprisal. For Muslim extremists, any type of worship in offices, homes, hotels or any other building that is not a bona fide place of worship makes the place an "illegal church".

Such is the dread that the announcement by Interior Minister Mohammad Ma'ruf that the central government was going to hold a special meeting to review a controversial 1969 ministerial decree on places of worship did not allay the fear.

Minister Ma'ruf said that the 1969 Joint Ministerial Decree will be brought into line with the Autonomy Law No 32/2004 on regional autonomy.

Under this decree, religious communities wishing to erect a house of worship should obtain first a permit from the head of local authority and seek permission from local residents where the house of worship will be erected.

However, the decree has not done much to accommodate Christians who wish to erect churches, since the legal permit is not easily issued.

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