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Religion and Society

Indonesia: 108 Churches Closed or attacked in three years

For the past three years extremist groups have targeted Christian places of worship for violent and indiscriminate attacks. Altogether some 108 such cases have been recorded since 2004, including instances in which Church buildings and other places of worship have been damaged, forcibly shut down and in some cases even demolished, this according to an article published in mid-December 2007 by the Jakarta-based Catholic weekly magazine HIDUP.

 

 

In its piece the paper cites a report whose results were made public at a meeting attended by representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI), the (Protestant) Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) and the Jakarta-based Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM). KWI Chairman Mgr Martinus Dogma Situmorang OFM Cap and PGI General Chairman Rev Andreas Yewangoe were among those present.

 

 

During the meeting Mgr Situmorang explained that Indonesia has historically been a pluralistic country. This is reflected in its 1945 Constitution which requires the government to guarantee all citizens the right to worship and freely practice their religion. However, some groups have recently ignored these constitutionally-protected rights. Regrettably, some law enforcement authorities have also failed to uphold these rights. It is therefore high time for the Church to speak up.

 

Monsignor Situmorang, speaking on behalf of the Church, has called for action to find a solution to the problem and thus better protect citizens’ rights.

 

 

Fr Mudji Sutrisno, director of the Driyarkara Institute of Philosophy in Jakarta, also attended the meeting and said that pluralism is a beautiful thing and should not be destroyed by narrow-minded people. In his opinion all societies must learn to accept diversity.

 

 

Lastly the article pointed out that whilst the Church speaks for itself it does not defend its interests alone. Certainly its voice is that of all Indonesian believers, whatever their religious background. Christians indeed are not the only who have suffered. Muslims from non mainstream groups have been attacked as well by fellow Muslims on the grounds that some of their teachings are “heretical.”

 

 

The Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights accepted the complaint and promised that it would follow up and take some concrete steps. It said it would ask Indonesia’s National Police Chief to look into the situation. It also asserted that it would call on the government to revise any existing regulation found to be discriminatory and that it would make it easier to report such cases.

 

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