Christmas celebrations in jeopardy

December 22, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia, Persecution

Islamists against Catholics in Central Java

Islamic Defence Front leaders threaten to stop celebrations. A big prayer meeting is planned for Christmas Eve. Islamist reaction is due to a planned Mass in a square across from a mosque. Police and local authorities say Christian celebrations have all the right permits, warn they would use all means at their disposal, including force to stop the extremists.

Islamists against Catholics in Central Java, Christmas celebrations in jeopardyIndonesia, December 21, 2012: For Catholics in Ungaran (Central Java), Christmas is in jeopardy because of threats from the extremist Islamic Defence Front (FPI). Since the local grand mosque is located on the centrally located Sidomulyo Square, where Christians are preparing to celebrate Christmas with Masses and prayers, Muslims fundamentalists have threatened to stop all celebrations. A big meeting in front of the mosque has already been announced for the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

Central Java FPI leader Jindan Bahrul warned Christians that an open-air Mass in front of the mosque would “not be a good example of [interfaith] tolerance” before Christmas. “Other possible locations exist,” he said, adding that Christians “should go elsewhere”. Indeed, Christmas Eve’s big prayer meeting in front of Ungaran’s Grand Mosque should be reason enough for Christians to pause.

However, regency police said that they would stop the Islamists if they acted, by force if necessary. Although no public official personally made the announcement to avoid retaliation, the statement does indicate the authorities’ intention to stand their ground even against a leading mosque leader in Ungaran.

For its part, the local administration noted that the Catholic community had applied and obtained the necessary permits for Christmas celebrations within the required timespan. “We gave the request due attention,” said Abdullah Maskur, a local top official, “and decided to issue the necessary permits after consulting all parties.”

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Whilst its constitution recognises the principle of religious freedom, attacks and violence against minorities, be they Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or members of other religions, have become very frequent.

In Aceh Province, Sharia is in place, the only jurisdiction in the entire nation to have done so. Under Islamist influence, a more radical and extremist vision of the faith is being imposed on residents in many areas.

Increasingly, laws, rules and regulations like building permits are being used selectively to prevent the construction of Christian places of worship or prevent Christians from using those they already have. This has been done in Bogor Regency (West Java) against members of the Yasmin Church.

– by Mathias Hariyadi

Police to tighten security at Indonesian churches

Churches are especially vulnerable to attack during Christian festivals

Churches are especially vulnerable to attack during Christian festivals

Indonesia, December 21, 2012: Police in Indonesia have pledged to tighten security at the 38,499 registered churches throughout the country over the Christmas and New Year period.

The move is part of wider efforts to safeguard against potential terrorist attacks between 23 December and 1 January. The police have identified seven areas that are believed to be prime targets for attacks, based on past incidents and current trends: East Java, Central Java, Jakarta, North Sumatra, Central Sulawesi, Bali and Malaku.

As well as heightened security at churches, extra precautions will also be taken on the transport network, tourism sites and shopping malls.

Churches in certain Muslim-majority countries are particularly vulnerable to attack during Christian festivals. In Indonesia, they are under threat from Islamist groups who want to eliminate Christianity from the country.

Churches across the country were targeted in coordinated bombings on Christmas Eve in 2000; 19 people were killed and around 100 were injured. The bombs exploded within minutes of each other as church services were about to begin in the evening. Most were left in cars outside church buildings; ministers received others at their homes, wrapped as gifts.

The bombs targeted churches in Jakarta, Bekasi, Medan, Sukabumi, Mojokerto, Bandung, and on Batam Island and Lomok. Eleven unexploded bombs were found on Sumatra.

Although nothing on that scale has hit the Indonesian Church since, it continues to face harassment and violence from Islamists; they are particularly hostile to the presence of church buildings, making them a target for attack.

Islamist militant group Jemaah Islamiyah carried out the 2000 Christmas Eve bombings. Abu Bakar Bashir, the group’s suspected spiritual leader, was convicted last year for his involvement in the church bombings as well as other offences; he was jailed in June for 15 years.

– barnabas team

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