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Police foil attempted closure of church BANDUNG - The suppression of religious freedom in this predominantly Muslim nation continues in West Java, where dozens of churches and places of worship have been forcibly closed by Muslim extremists over the past year. A mob of around 50 people attempted Saturday to demolish a house they claimed was being used illegally by Christians as a place of worship in the hamlet of Cibintinu, Arjasari village, some 20 kilometers south of Bandung.

But police foiled the attempted closure of the church, telling the mob that neither individuals nor organizations were authorized to shut any house of worship. The incident took place a day before Muslims across the country started the fasting month of Ramadhan. The abortive attempt received the backing of Muslim hard-liners grouped under the Anti-Apostasy Division (DAP) of the Islamic Ulema Forum (FUUI) led by Suryana Nur Fatwama.

The move began at around 9 a.m. after a meeting at a nearby mosque. The mob then marched to Yayasan Penginjilan Roti Kehidupan church, where they talked to church administrator Ibu Eri. As she refused to close the church, the crowd tried to start destroying the roof of the building. Around 10 policemen then arrived at the scene and told the mob to leave. "We ask all of you to be patient. Anybody who tries to touch this building will be arrested," said Bandung Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Suparman who arrived later.

He said no group was allowed under the law to close down or demolish a house of worship except the local authorities. The mob later dispersed but insisted that they would return to the scene if the church continued its activities. According to Faidin, a local neighborhood official in charge of spiritual affairs, the church started activities two weeks ago, around one year after being "closed" by local residents.

"It has a congregation of only seven members, including two residents from the local village. The two had just converted to Christianity," Faidin said. "We are disturbed by their presence and worried if they spread their teachings among local residents who are nearly 100 percent Muslim," he added. No local Christian leaders were available to respond.

Under the revised joint decree issued earlier this year by Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni and Home Minister M. Ma'ruf, the establishment of a house of worship must gain the approval of at least 60 local residents and have a minimum of 90 followers. Churches in several cities across West Java have been under threat due to the actions of Islamic extremists including the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the Alliance of Anti-Apostasy Movement.

The number of churches forcibly closed in West Java alone since September 2004 is reported to be 30. Dozens of other churches were also forced to close in other provinces. The UK-based human rights watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has warned of the increasing trend in church closures in West Java, raising international concern.



Posted in Religion @ 25 September 2006 09:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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