04/23/2012 Indonesia (The Jakarta Globe) - After being forced by officials and police to hold their church service in a house instead of their church, members of a congregation in Karawang, West Java, were surrounded and harassed by more than 200 people on Sunday.
About 100 members of the Filadelfia congregation of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) arrived at their church on Sunday morning but were blocked from entering by members of Karawang public order (Satpol PP) officials and police officers. Instead, the church members were told to use a member’s house to hold the Mass.
“They said it was for our own security. But we couldn’t accept it. After trying to push through officials’ blockade, the congregation members backed down and held their prayers in a house,” said Thompson Tampubolon, the congregation’s lawyer.
A group of about 200 protestors went to the home where the service was being held and continued to assail the church members with chants, demanding that they leave the area.
Police and the public order officers guarded the house, preventing the disruption from escalating further.
The congregation members said they were terrified and could not concentrate on the Mass.
“We don’t know where they came from,” said Asima, a congregation member who lives in the area. “Surely they were not locals because I didn’t recognize them. We also don’t know who sent them.”
She said the only reason the group did not attack them was because of the police presence.
“If there were no police officers guarding us, they would have attacked us,” she said.
When the Mass ended, however, the members were not allowed to go home because the mob blocked their way out.
Some protesters even attempted to attack the congregation members.
“A public order official chief then took out his gun and fired it to the air as more police arrived. Only then they could go home,” Thompson said.
The blockade was the latest attempt to drive away the congregation members out of the location as various groups, mostly hard-line Muslims, have come and gone since the church began operations there in 2007. Clashes have taken place there almost every week since then.