Bags of urine hurled by a mob of 600 Muslims at Christians attempting to attend church service is the latest in a series of disgusting acts of degradation and violence perpetrated by Indonesia’s growing Islamist movement.
The Muslim mob was led by members of Indonesia’s Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a militant Islamist group that has been directly involved in 34 of the 54 documented acts of violence and destruction against Christians and Church property since 2012.
In an increasingly violent campaign launched against Indonesia’s religious minorities, the 30,000-strong FPI spearheads a growing cadre of militant Islamist groups whose ranks include the Islamic Defenders Legion (LPI), an FPI affiliate; the Indonesian Mujahideen Council (MMI); and Kokam, the youth wing of Muhammadiyah.
The victims of the latest Islamist assault — which also included a barrage of rotten eggs, ditchwater and stones — were over 100 congregants of the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in the city of Bekasi, located outside the capital of Jakarta.
It should be noted that the “church” at which the HKBP congregants were headed to pray when attacked is in actuality an empty parking lot, a venue of worship necessitated by the local Bekasi government’s refusal since 2009 to allow HKBP members to build and occupy an actual church.
Yet, despite a ruling in July 2011 by Indonesia’s Supreme Court to overturn the Bekasi government’s action, local authorities have refused to carry out the court’s rulings, instead relying on Islamist-led mobs to enforce its dictates.
Building houses of worship in Indonesia, unfortunately, has become increasingly problematic given the enactment of a 2006 Indonesian ministerial decree that tightened criteria for building churches. While ostensibly intended for “maintaining religious harmony,” in practice the decree is only enforced on religious minorities.
That enforcement comes either in the form of Islamist pressure on local officials to not authorize the construction of Christian churches or, failing that, mob harassment of Christian worshippers, pressure which has led to the closure of more than 400 Christian churches.
So, given all that, it wasn’t too surprising that Bekasi police reportedly looked the other way when the urine-toting Islamist mob, which included the chairman of the Bekasi chapter of the FPI, launched its recent assault on the HKBP worshippers.
Unfortunately, Islamist violence is being abetted with a wink-and-nod by the Indonesian government, led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who despite his public appeals for tolerance has been reluctant to expend political capital to rein in the Islamists.
For example, like the HKBP, the Gereja Kristen Indonesia Church (GKI-Yasmin Church) in nearby Bogor, has also been denied permission to meet for worship on its property, despite a similarly favorable Supreme Court ruling upholding its legality. Yet, in both cases, Yudhoyono has claimed he has no authority to intervene.
Yudhoyono’s reluctance to uphold Indonesian law may stem in part because his Democratic Party rules a coalition government that includes a number of hard line Islamist political parties, such as the Islamic-based United Development Party (PPP) and the Nation Awakening Party (PKB).
As one Indonesian Human Rights official said, “Senior government officials have shown quite openly that they protect groups like the Islamic Defenders Front. They’re very powerful, they’re very influential, and people don’t really want to be seen as working against them.”
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