Indonesia Islamists oppose building of Church

Vigilantes vow to stop ‘Christianization’ of Indonesia


A heated debate accompanied by a surge of violence hit Indonesia last week after a congregation of Christians announced its intentions to build a church in the city of Bekasi.

As calls to stop the “Islamization” of America resonated in the United States in protest to building an Islamic center near Ground Zero, similar initiatives were launched to stop the “Christianization” of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslin country.

The protests came after a small Christian group in Bekasi, West Java, announced the construction of a church. The group, an Arab news channel reported, obtained the necessary signatures from local residents.

The announcement triggered a wave of violence by Islamist vigilantes who call themselves the Islamic Defenders’ Front, also known as FPI, rallied in Bekasi and called upon the residents to withdraw their approvals.

The rally turned violent as two leaders of the Christian congregation were critically wounded, a church elder was stabbed in the stomach, and a female priest was hit on the head with a plank.

Murhali Barda, head of the FPI Bekasi branch, was arrested on suspicion of masterminding the attacks.

Police say Barda could face up to 12 years in jail if proven guilty of assault and inciting sectarian violence.

“The FPI's chief is accused of inciting people to do violence against others,” Jakarta police spokesman Boy Rafli told AFP.

Islamic Defenders’ Front

Barda has made earlier statements inciting violence against Christians, In June, he warned Muslims of possible Christian plans against them.

“All Muslims should unite and be on guard,” he told the Jakarta Globe. “The Christians are up to something.”

He also recommended that mosques start training their own militias in order to be ready to fight attempts at the “Christianization” of Indonesia.

Members of the Bekasi Christian congregation refused the local officials’ suggestion that they perform their Sunday service in a remote location. Instead, they prayed in a building whose windows were boarded up and were surrounded by police officers, the Associated Press reported.

Members of FPI, who want to see sharia (Islamic law) applied in Indonesia, are known for attacking groups that do not conform to their ideology like minority Muslim sects and gays as well as targeting bars.

The group pledged to hunt down Erwin Arnada, editor of the Indonesian version of Playboy. The publication of the magazine was stopped and Arnada is currently in hiding. They also attacked a group of legislators in June.

In several cases, FPI vigilantes are not brought to justice since politicians and the police sometimes tend to turn a blind eye to their attacks on targets deemed un-Islamic, like gays and transvestites, because they are worried they would be seen by the public as promoting vice, according to a Reuters report.

All Muslims should unite and be on guard. The Christians are up to something

FPI leader Murhali Barda

Attacks slammed

The Indonesian government fears to target any group that speaks in the name of Islam, said Islamic activist Yenny Wahid, director of the Wahid Institute which promotes a moderate view of Islam.

“Anarchism on behalf of religion is increasing, and the government seems to fear any group that uses Islam.” She told The Jakarta Globe. “We do not want to be like Afghanistan under the Taliban.”

Indonesians who condemn the vigilant attacks launched campaigns on the social networking websites Facebook and Twitter calling for the ban of FPI.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who ordered the arrest and prosecution of the culprits, slammed last week’s attacks on Christians in Bekasi.

“There is no space for violence from and against anyone for any reason, especially over the sensitive issue of inter-religious community relationships in our country,” he told the press.

In a letter to American President Barrack Obama, Yudhoyono called the planned burning of the Quran by Florida priest Terry Jones a threat to world peace.

Almost 80% of Indonesia’s 240 million. The remaining percentage is divided among Christians—Catholics and Protestants—Hindus, and Buddhists.

Anarchism on behalf of religion is increasing, and the government seems to fear any group that uses Islam

Islamic activist Yenny Wahid