Published: 00:01 GMT Daylight Time - Friday 07 May 2010
Indonesia: Fire of Hatred Burns Again
On Tuesday 27 April hundreds of Muslims descended on a building site belonging to a Christian education foundation in Cibeureum, in the Bogor regency of West Java. They ransacked and set fire to the building, and destroyed other property. Residents claimed that the rioters were from outside the village, which suggests that the attack may have been orchestrated.
Muslim leaders had accused the foundation of reneging on an agreement not to create a Christian education centre in a mainly Muslim area and of planning to build a chapel there. Incited by these reports, Muslim residents took matters into their own hands. A spokeswoman for the foundation denied the rumours, saying that the building was intended as a meeting-place.
Police completely failed to prevent the attack. In the afternoon of the same day the local government directed that construction of the building should be postponed until further notice.
An Indonesian church leader said that acts of destruction and anarchy should not be tolerated. “Isn’t this country based on the law?” he asked. “Why have this country’s people behaved like thugs recently?”
Spate of anti-Christian attacks
West Java has witnessed a spate of anti-Christian attacks in the last few months. In December 2009, at Islamic New Year, thousands of demonstrators stormed a church in Bekasi regency, setting objects on fire. On 31 December the authorities in East Bekasi, under the influence of hard-line Muslim groups, ordered a large church to stop its services and other activities. On 3 January 2010 hundreds of residents of the North Tambun sub-district prevented members of another church from taking part in services. In Bogor Regency Muslims took to the streets to protest against the building of a permanent church.
But incidents of intimidation and violence have been reported from other parts of Indonesia too, particularly from areas where militant Islamist groups are present and active. On 21 January, under pressure from such groups, the authorities ordered a church in Sepatan, in the Tangerang district of Banten province, to stop its services. The next day two Protestant churches and a pastor’s house were set on fire by a Muslim mob in Sibuhuan, in the Padang Lawas regency of North Sumatra. The Muslim community was said to be tired of seeing “too many faithful and too many prayers”. Many Muslims feel threatened by the explosive church growth of the last 50 years; church leaders estimate that Christians may number 15% or even 20% of the population.
Even in some areas where there is no violence, Christians are enduring intense pressure, arising either from government restrictions on religious freedom, or from the extension of Islamic sharia law. A prominent cleric from Indonesia's biggest Muslim organisation has said that sharia law should take precedence over laws passed by the country’s parliament.
Barnabas Fund has been supporting the beleaguered Christians of Indonesia through a range of projects. Currently we are assisting with the rebuilding of a Christian village destroyed by a mob from the neighbouring Muslim village, we are supporting 40 church-planters, and we are assisting with the running costs of a theological seminary that is training 61 Christians for ministry all over the country.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said, “Again our brothers and sisters in Indonesia have suffered violence and loss at the hands of their Muslim neighbours; again they have been falsely accused; again their freedoms have been curtailed. Where will this end? They need our practical support and especially our prayers as they seek to stand firm in the face of such serious challenges.”
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference 22-860.
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference 22-860.
- For the Christian foundation, that it may be able to resume construction of its building, and that its property will be protected from further damage.
- For the local authorities and police, that they may treat Christians and Muslims equally in law and bring those responsible for the violence to justice.
- For the churches of West Java, that they may respond with wisdom and courage to the recent attacks, witnessing to the love and forgiveness of Christ.
- For all our brothers and sisters in Indonesia, that God may give them grace to remain faithful to the Lord in an unstable and uncertain context.