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AsiaNews/UCAN – Hundreds of Muslims marched on a school under construction by Christian foundation and threatened to destroy it as soon as it is finished. The men form part of three distinct Islamic groups; they came together in Cikampek (65 km south-east of Jakarta ) after Friday prayers on 23 September.

Ustadz Akhmad Zaenudin, president of the Karawang section of the Islam Defender Front, said during a public speech that the protest would not stop because “the school would be a means of proselytism”. Together with the leaders of the other two groups – Islam Defender’s Network and the Muslim Movement – he spoke from an open truck outfitted with two loudspeakers. They declared they hated proselytism, not Christians.

The school is a project managed by the Abdi Karya (Yadika) Foundation, which was set up by Raja Darianus Lungguk Sitorus, a Christian.

A leaflet distributed in the area on 19 September said the local people had been opposed Yadika from the start. It called on all Muslims in Cikampek to join in a “Grand Roll Call against Proselytism”. The foundation was forced to stop construction works in 2004 because of repeated acts of vandalism and violence against its leaders. During one such attack, a group of Muslims living around the building attacked the protesters. Yanto Pribadi, one of the protesters, died in hospital after being hit on the head with a piece of wood.

The leaflet claimed local opposition was clearly shown when the Cikampek Muslim Movement convinced the head of Karawang district to withdraw the school’s building permit. Further it said that after an administrative court ruled against the district head, Yadika resumed construction work on the school under the new name of Panca Moral (the five morals) Foundation. “They take no notice of Muslims’ pain over the martyr’s death of Yanto Pribadi. They strongly challenge us.”

The leaflet accused the foundation of bribing the government, politicians and NGOs to defend it. Those spearheading the protest warned: “We are ready to fight against the building and die to defend our land. If Yadika does not destroy the building, we will come again to do it,” one speaker proclaimed. Wens Sitorus, chairman of Yadika’s education section, said nobody had the slightest intention of proselytising. Jadika already runs schools in several places in the country, among them Bekasi and Bogor , Jakarta neighbourhoods, and he challenged anyone to find “any indication of proselytism there”.

Sitorus said Yadika no longer owned the unfinished building and that the district head, hoping to salvage the school as an educational asset for local people, persuaded Yadika to sell to the Pamor Foundation. Pamor is owned by Mien Sugandi, former state minister for women’s role, and Suyono, former general secretary of the defense and security board.

Sitorus said the attacks could be rooted in a fear of competition. “Perhaps they think that the junior and senior high schools we wanted to build would attract students from their schools. But this would not be true, because the monthly school fee we require is double the average fee. Our education is for those who want higher qualifications.”