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06/05/2012 Indonesia (CDN) – The number of violations of Christians’ religious rights in Indonesia reached 40 in the first five months of the year, nearly two-thirds the amount of anti-Christian actions in all of last year, according to the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum.

The Christian minority in Indonesia faced 64 cases of violations of religious freedom last year, up from 47 in 2010, said Theophilus Bela, president of the group. Bela said he was worried about the growing incidence of violence and church closures, as his group recorded just 10 anti-Christian incidents in 2009. There were 40 such incidents in 2008, he said.

At least 22 churches have been forced to close this year, including 18 in the Singkil regency of Aceh Province that were sealed last month,as local authorities either sided with or came under pressure from extremist Islamist groups in this Southeast Asian archipelago that is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, according to Bela.

The closures in Aceh followed last month’s election of a hard-line Islamic governor. Bela said that after his organization’s intervention the closed churches in Aceh began worshipping again on May 13, but unconfirmed reports indicate other churches in the area have since been forced to close.

Violence against Christians has also increased, with most incidents taking place in areas surrounding Jakarta and Singkil, said Bela, who is also secretary general of the Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace, a group that promotes inter-religious dialogue.

Besides a May 17 incident in which 600 Islamists hurled bags of urine and ditchwater at about 100 members of the Philadelphia Batak Christian Protestant Church in Bekasi, near Jakarta in West Java Province.

Local authorities closed down a small Pentecostal church about 15 miles west of Jakarta in Tangerang city, Banten Province, after members of the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) attacked it on April 14, Bela said.

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