05/18/2012, 00.00
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Muslim extremists throw stones and urine at Bekasi Christians

by Mathias Hariyadi
The Filadelfia HKBP community met yesterday to celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. A mob attacked them, interrupting the religious service, which police failed to protect. Last week, a Christian journalist was beaten up for his faith.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A mob of Muslim extremists attacked a praying house that belongs to the Filadelfia Christian Protestant Batak Church (HKBP), Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta (West Java). Despite the intervention of the police, the 300 and more attackers threw stones and urine-filled bags at the walls of the building, interrupting yesterday's service celebrating the Ascension of the Lord. This is nothing new. Just last week, a group of hooligans brutally assaulted a local Christian journalist. In February, local extremists disrupted a religious service with loudspeakers and shouts (see picture and YouTube video)

In yesterday's incident, attackers threw stones and urine-filled bags, shouting anti-Christian slogans and insults, forcing worshippers to stop five minutes into the Ascension service. HKBP members eventually left the site for security reasons and went home.

Reached by AsiaNews this afternoon, Rev Palti H. Panjaitan Sth, head of the Filadelfia HKBP community, explained that his congregation has faced problems in worshipping freely since 2006.

The community has existed since April 2000, when a group of ethnic Batak Christians set up their own independent congregation. Since they did not have a 'praying house' of their own, they initially worshipped in private dwellings. However, as the community grew-it is about 1,500 at present-it became increasingly necessary to build a real place of worship. This, however, sparked a legal battle.

After three years of legal wrangling over the building permit (known by its notorious Indonesian acronym IMB), an administrative court in West Java recognised the Christians' legitimate right to build a church. The Supreme Court also ruled in their favour.

Yet the obstinate opposition by Bekasi authorities and local Muslim extremists, in violation of the law, brought the project to a standstill on several occasions and could ultimately derail it.

As in the case of the Yasmin Church in Bogor, also in West Java, members of the HKBP Filadelfia Church have no option, for now, but to celebrate their rites and services in private homes or in the street, which brings the risk of being attacked and insulted.

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