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Christians in Java uneasy after 'orchestrated' attacks on churches

CWN - February 09, 2011

Indonesian police have stepped up security around Christian churches in Java in the wake of a series of attacks by Muslim militants, amid complaints that the government has not provided adequate protection for religious minorities.

Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi, who heads an inter-faith dialogue commission for the Indonesian bishops’ conference, charged that “religious minorities have been left without any protection from the state.” Archbishop Johannes Pujasumarta of Semarang, in whose archdiocese the violence erupted, said that the mob violence was “planned and orchestrated” by extremist groups from outside the area. And Father Ignazio Ismartono, a Jesuit priest involved in inter-faith dialogue, agreed that the rash of violence suggests “dark forces who want to fuel tensions in society.”

The violence broke out after a court imposed a 3-year prison sentence—rather than the death penalty—on a Protestant who had distributed pamphlets that were deemed insulting to Islam.

Father Benny Susetyo, the executive secretary of inter-religious dialogue for the Indonesian episcopal conference, said that the work of some Protestant preachers has produced “discontent, disharmony, discomfort, and verbal violence.” He charged that fundamentalist Protestant groups “who have no respect for other religions” have stirred up their Islamic counterparts. “They are both small groups, but when fanatics collide, the whole society and all the faithful pay for it,” he said.

Father Benny Susetyo, too, called upon the government to take steps to “protect human rights and the spirit of Pancasila,” the Indonesian ideology of tolerance and coexistence.

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