Thousands Flee Religious Violence in Indonesia’s Aceh
ICC Note: This violence follows an unsettling pattern in Indonesia. Islamic radicals from outside the locality stir up residents and make unfounded claims about the registration of a Christian church that may have been in the neighborhood for years. The next step is that that local officials close the churches pending an ‘investigation’. Unfortunately, as seen in many cases around Indonesia, these Christian churches are never allowed to reopen their doors.
By Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
10/14/2015 Indonesia (UCANews.com)
Thousands of Protestants and Catholics in Indonesia’s Aceh province fled their homes following an Oct. 13 arson attack on a Christian church.
At least one person was killed and dozens injured in clashes that broke out when a group of Islamic fundamentalists attempted to burn down a second church in Aceh Singkil district, local police said.
Capuchin Father Alfons Pandiangan of St. Michael’s parish in neighboring North Sumatra province told ucanews.com that several hundred people fled to his parish for protection.
“Since last night there are both Christians and Catholics who come here. There are already hundreds of people,” he told ucanews.com Oct. 14. “The others will most likely arrive in the evening. We are cooperating with the government to help them.”
“They chose to flee Singkil, especially mothers and children,” he said.
The Rev. Erde Brutu from Pakpak Dairi Protestant Church, where the attack occurred, said at least 8,000 Christians fled from the region.
“They fled to their family’s home in the neighboring province of North Sumatra,” he said.
Aceh Singkil police chief Budi Samekto said that some 20 people have been arrested for possible involvement in the violence.
“We’re still investigating whether those arrested were involved or not,” he said.
The Rev. Brutu, who was at the location when the clash occurred, said the congregation was forced to fight their assailants because they wanted to save the church.
The burning of the church is a continuation of demands made in early October by Islamic fundamentalists who want illegal churches to be permanently closed.
Local officials had announced plans to close 10 Christian churches operating without the necessary permits, but the fundamentalists want the churches closed immediately, the Rev. Brutu said.