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AsiaNews – Barisan Serba Guna, a Muslim paramilitary organisation better known as Banser, announced that it was going to play an active role in monitoring and protecting East Java churches during the Christmas period.

In a statement released on December 5, the Banser branch in Jember—a town some 250 kilometres from the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya—confirmed that at least 300 of its members will take part in the plan.

Jember’s Banser Chief Sofyan Syauri said that at least 100 members will be deployed at the kecamatan (sub-district) level to protect smaller churches.

“Banser’s participation is needed to give our Christian fellow citizens peace to celebrate Christmas,” Syauri said.

He added that special attention will be paid to Jember’s Catholic Church of Saint Joseph and the Protestant Ecclesia Church .

St Joseph is run by the Carmelites, who also run Jember’s popular St Paul Senior High School .

For some time, terrorists have been targeting churches and public buildings, a fact confirmed by the plans found in the hideout of Malaysian terrorist Azahari bin Husin after his death. Such plans indicate that attacks using explosives are planned for the Christmas period.

The authenticity of these threats was further confirmed by recent verbal attacks and graffiti against Catholic and Protestant places of worship.

“We will provide extra protection to these churches,” Syauri said, after they received threats.

Banser is affiliated with the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia ’s largest Muslim organisation known for its allegiance to former Indonesia president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid.

In central part of the island, security forces will provide round the clock protection to the Christian community.

Surakarta police released a statement announcing that some 5,600 security forces will be deployed to protect churches.

Many agents will be stationed around the Jesuit-run St Anthony Parish Church and the Kleca Parish Church , the most frequented and active places of worship in the area.

This massive deployment of force reflects the presence in the area of notorious Muslim extremists.