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Angry Muslim Mob Storms Indonesia Church

ICC Note: Christians represent only 9 percent of Indonesia’s estimated 235 million people and yet attacks on the churches take place “even as an excuse to defend democracy” since the majority opposes the activities of Christians.

by Eric Leijenaar, Senior Special Correspondent

9/19/07 Indonesia (BosNewsLife) – Muslim mobs have attacked Christians in the past, for instance here on the Indonesian island of Ambon . Via BBC News, tensions remained high Wednesday in an area of the Indonesian city of Tangerand on the island of Java , after several Christians were injured when a congregation of the Protestant Batak Church was attacked by an angry Muslim mob, investigators said.

Three suspects remain in police custody for allegedly participating in destroying church properties and injuring four Christians, added Open Doors International, a major Christian rights group, in a statement to BosNewsLife.

Armed with pole-axes, knives and stones over 100 people marched September 2 towards a tent where about 200 church members had gathered for a worship service, Open Doors said. “They started throwing stones at the church members and destroyed the tent where they had gathered.”

Police officers were apparently unable to stop the Muslims. Reverend Jau Doloksaribu and three other church members received head wounds, Open Doors said, adding that militants and neighbors were involved in the violence. It was not immediately clear whether the attackers had links to extremist Muslim organizations.

SURPRISED PREACHER

Reverend Doloksaribu suggested in published remarks that he was surprised about the angry reaction of people in the neighborhood. “In 2000, our congregation was founded but since we did not get the required [government] licenses, we had to meet in all kinds of houses. However for this service we received permission from the local government.”

The latest attack has underscored concerns about increased violence against Christian institutions in Indonesia and the apparent unwillingness of authorities to intervene, Indonesian Christian politicians and other officials say.

Gomor Gultom, an executive secretary of the Indonesian Church Community, a platform of several denominations, said “The government and security officials have the habit to ignore attacks on churches.” The official added that, “In some cases civil servants even supported [attacks] by arguing that buildings were improperly used as a prayer house.”

CHURCHES ATTACKED

Since the beginning of 2007 at least 20 Christian congregations were reportedly forced to end their worship services in West and Central Java . Gultom said his group established that although Indonesia ‘s constitution “guarantees freedom of religion” those responsible for its implementation are not protecting that freedom. Adding to the problems, Gultom said, is that “the Indonesian community is very divided and radical in religious matters.”

He said attacks on churches have taken place “even as an excuse to defend democracy” as the majority allegedly opposes the activities of the Christian minority. “We see this [argument] often used in communities where both Muslims and Christians are living.”

Gultom said that those who plead for church closures often believe that these measures “are in agreement with Islamic” or civil law. Christians comprise at least roughly 9 percent of Indonesia ‘s estimated 235 million people, most of whom are Muslims.