The sharia authorities in West Java have developed a two-prong strategy to discourage the practice of Christianity. First they knock down a church, which drives the Christian congregation into open-air worship. Then they harass them for praying in the open, because public worship by non-Muslims is against the law.
According to Asia News:
Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Police demolished a residential building in Bogor (West Java) that regularly hosted a house church. Police also detained, interrogated and released ten people, Compass Direct News (CDN) reported.
Last Monday, police raided a house used for worship by Narogong Pentecostal Church in the village of Limusnunggal, Cileungsi sub-district. The action was followed by clashes between agents and worshippers. The building was eventually torn down and ten people arrested.
“Local residents, including non-Christians, had accepted the presence of the church,” said local Block Captain Junaedi Syamsudin, “but a group called the Forum of the Muslim Brotherhood of Limusnunggal has worked since 2008 to have the church eliminated.”
“Three months ago members of the forum went to Cileungsi offices to object to the church’s presence,” Syamsudin added, “and the regent promised to demolish the house.”
Here’s a crucial part of the Muslim strategy: the co-opting of supposedly impartial police officials:
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Bogor Police Chief Eddy Hidayat said that the house “lacked a use permit”, but Pentecostal Church coordinator Hotlan P. Silaen retorted that police were not neutral in the dispute.
“The clash with citizens could have been avoided if the police had been neutral and not been goaded into a situation that caused bodily harm,” Silaen said.
The Christians have enough backbone to at least attempt to fight back:
Rev Rekson Sitorus announced that the Church would take “legal action” against those responsible for demolishing the house, including the Bogor administration.
Now here comes Stage Two: harassment of Christians for open-air worship. In this case, however, the police were more helpful to the persecuted Christians:
Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A group of 500 Islamic extremists blocked Christians from the Huria Protestant Church (Hkbp) in a field where the Sunday service was taking place. The incident occurred last July 18 in the city of Pondok Timur in Mustika Jaya subdistrict, district of Bekasi (West Java).
Muslims blocked all routes to prevent Christians leaving the field and began to insult them, terrorizing them. The group of Protestant believers pray outdoors because their hall for religious functions was closed on the grounds that it was illegal.
The situation improved when a representative of the Bekasi Office for Religious Affairs, along with 200 policemen, arrived at the site. Luspida Simanjutak, head pastor at the Hkbp church, told AsiaNews: “We were forced to sign a pact with them, forcing us to stop our faith celebration but we strongly rejected the proposal. We asked the representative to help our congregation to leave the site without harm. Their goal is one and one alone, to eradicate all churches from Mustika Jaya”.
It is not the first time that the Hkbp church was targeted by Islamic extremists. “At Pondok Timur — continued the pastor — the Muslims have forced local government to outlaw the place where we held our services. They’ve already done so twice”.
That’s why different Hkbp communities decided to hold their services in an open field. Theopilus Bella an activist for interfaith dialogue, believes the incident last Sunday was premeditated. “Many of the faithful — he tells AsiaNews — received text messages from Islamic extremists which warned them of what they would do” and what in fact happened.
Despite threats by Islamic Rev. Simanjutak says that her community will continue to recite the Mass in the same place.
For years the Christians of Bekasi have been targeted by Islamic fundamentalists. Early in 2010, radical groups blocked religious services, prevented Christians from access to existing churches and stopped the construction of new churches. Since 2009, more than 17 churches have been affected by Islamic extremists. The Hkbp church, besides having to close its premises many times because deemed “illegal” in 2010, suffered the destruction of a church in 2004, after receiving permission to construct it.
Indonesia used to be a relatively tolerant place for non-Muslim religions. The indigenous form of Islam in Malaysia and Indonesia is less harsh and more broad-minded than the Salafist strains that dominate Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In fact, some of the local syncretic practices are even viewed as blasphemous by Islamic purists.
Over the last ten or fifteen years, however, Wahhabi petrodollars have changed the religious landscape in the archipelago, as they have in Bosnia, Kosovo, Bangladesh, and all the other places where Wahhabist dawah is propagated. The religious authorities have recently intensified their enforcement of strict sharia practices.
The Christians of West Java are just one of the many groups suffering the consequences of these changes.
Hat tip: C. Cantoni.