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New Church Mirrors Strenghtened Interreligious, Community Relations After Riots

ICC Note:

An Indonesian church destroyed by about 500 anti-Christian rioters in January of 2000 has finally been rebuilt. The groundbreaking ceremony for the church was led by the Muslim mayor, Ruslan, who vowed to protect the Catholics in the town.

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11/18/08 Indonesia (UCAN) Eight years after a Muslim mob razed Immaculate Conception Church in Mataram, parishioners of this Lombok Island parish once again have a church.

On Jan. 17, 2000, about 500 anti-Christian rioters went on a rampage in the town, capital of West Nusa Tenggara (NTB, Indonesian acronym) province. The rioting occurred after 50 Islamic organizations in Mataram protested what they called “the slaughter of Muslims” by Christians in Maluku province, more than a thousand kilometers to the northeast, where communal violence killed about 6,000 Christians and Muslims.

Rioters destroyed three Catholic and at least 12 other churches in Mataram and the surrounding area. More than a thousand Christians fled to the neighboring provinces of Bali, to the west, and East Nusa Tenggara.

Ruslan, in his speech, recalled that the violence in 2000 occurred just 14 days after he was installed mayor: “It was something we all never wanted. That was the first-ever violence in this area, and I hope it will never happen again. Now I am happy because local Catholics could rebuild their church.”

The Muslim mayor, who led the groundbreaking ceremony that launched the rebuilding in early 2004, expressed hope the church would become a blessing for all local people. “I will protect Catholics in this town, at least until my leadership term ends,” he promised. His term ends in 2010.

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