03/27/2008, 00.00
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West Java: young Muslims prevent 2,500 Catholics from celebrating Easter

by Mathias Hariyadi
The Catholic congregation of St John the Baptist Parish Church in Parung comes under attack. They had built a tent-church to accommodate all the faithful for Easter services but were stopped by some 200 young Muslims. For years local Catholics have applied for a permit to build a church but no avail.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – All Catholic churches on the Indonesian archipelago happily celebrated Easter, all but one that is. The unfortunate exception is St John the Baptist Church in Parung district, West Java province. Reports have come in saying that a group of 200 radical Muslims from the Muslim Youngster Joint Forum prevented Easter celebrations on Easter Saturday night.

A small chapel along a road in the village of Tulangkunig is all the local Catholic community has to meet on Sunday, but it is big enough for prayers and mediation, not for Mass. This year members of the congregation set up a 6,000 m2 “tent-church” near the chapel to accommodate some 2,500 faithful.

But this tent-church sparked Muslim protests which led to an attack by Muslims, mostly high school students, who began intimidating Catholics, accusing them of not having a legal government permit authorising them to use the space.

Fr Alfonso Sutarto, the local parish priest, was forced to take down the structure. He told the congregation that he did not have a permit to hold religious activities, urging them to attend Easter Mass in the nearby parish churches in Cinere, Depok, Bogor and Cibinong, all some 20 to 30 kilometres from Parung.

According to Fr Alfonso, locals are not to blame for the incident.

“We informed the local population about Holy Week schedule and no one had previously said anything against the activities we organised. They have always been respectful. In fact protests came from people who do not live in the village.

A spokesperson for the St John the Baptist group, Emil Kleden, accused Muslim religious leaders of orchestrating the attack, but the Indonesian Ulemas Council denied it had anything to do with the incident.

This is the first time that the Catholic community in Parung builds a tent-church. For the past nine years, the congregation met on private property for Sunday Mass.

The authorities have not issued any permit to build a church despite persistent requests to that effect.

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See also
Indonesian Christians turn to administrative courts to obtain permits to build churches
Muslim mayor rescinds construction permit for Protestant church
Government to cut waiting period to build churches
Indonesian Christians sceptical about new decree on places of worship
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