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Indonesian Islamists Threaten to Block Celebrations of Priesthood

ICC Note: Radical Muslims belong to the Islamic Defenders Front are threatening to block the 50th anniversary celebrations of the ordination of Father Gregorius Utomo. The group is protesting the celebrations, saying the event will constitute illegally using a building as a house of worship. This pretext is commonly used by radical groups in Indonesia to protest a wide range of Christian activities. In the past mobs of radicals have thrown rocks, dirt, and even bags of urine at Christians attempting to attend services at buildings deemed "illegal" by radical groups. 

7/01/2013 Indonesia (AsiaNews) - Islamic extremists are threatening to block celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Fr. Gregorius Utomo, scheduled for tomorrow, July 2. Relatives, friends and the faithful have organized a series of events and a solemn Eucharistic celebration, scheduled in the private chapel of prayer known as Wisma Tyas Dalem (House of the Sacred Heart). The building is located in the village of Rejoso, sub-district of Jogonalan, in the regency of Klaten, in central Java, the birthplace of the priest. For years it has been used for prayer and ceremonies of inculturation, like the mass of "Rebo Pon." In recent days, on the eve of the celebrations, the fundamentalists of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have, however, warned Fr. Utomo and faithful to stop all religious activities in program: they accuse the priest of using the house "in an illegal manner."

The "House of the Sacred Heart" - under the administration of the parish of Our Lady of Wedi - was originally a private residence, owned by the Utomo family. Over the years, the priest turned it into a center for "humanitarian" activities directed especially to the poor, as well as a "house of prayer" for the Catholic community in the area.

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Responding to themthreats from Muslim extremists the leaders of the Indonesian Church, defended the work of Fr. Utomo (pictured). In a personal letter Msgr. Johannes Pujasumarta, Archbishop of Semarang, rejects accusations of the Islamist front, according to which the faithful want to turn Wisma Tyas Dalem in a house of "permanent" prayer. The prelate stresses that this claim has been "artfully falsified" by online media and newspapers, to "discredit" the figure of the priest. "I personally asked - he adds - the Catholic media to enhance the figure of Fr. Gregorius Utomo and the activities accomplished in his 50 years of priesthood."

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world and while the constitutional principles ensure religious freedom, it is increasingly the scene of attacks and violence against minorities, be they Christian, Ahmadi Muslims or other faiths. In the province of Aceh is governed by Islamic law, the Sharia - the only one in the archipelago -, and in many other areas the Muslim religion's influence in people's lives is becoming more radical and extreme. In addition, some rules such as building permits - the infamous IMB - are exploited to prevent the building or close down Christian places of worship, as is the case for some time in the regency of Bogor, West Java, for the faithful of the Yasmin Church.

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