Fr. Daniel Byantoro: Religious tension in Indonesia continues

Unlike America, Indonesian Christians face challenges from Muslims and others who attempt to harass and intimidate the Christians into silence. Following our Lord and Savior always carries a cost, but that cost is more evident in Indonesia because of the Muslim majority. In many cases it involves using the state apparatus to deny permits and force other bureaucratic entanglements. Below are some recent articles from the Jakarta Post, one of Indonesia’s best read newspapers about the continuing tension in Indonesian culture and the efforts of Christians to worship freely.

Insight: Guarding a merry and bright Christmas
Bahtiar Effendy, Jakarta | Fri, 12/24/2010 9:21 AM

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How can this — a merry and bright Christmas — be realized? In today’s Indonesia, in several of its largest cities in particular, to have such a Christmas is still a wonder. Several years ago, in the early period of democratic transition, we had very disheartening and bitter Christmas celebrations.

Senseless attacks were launched by human beings aimed at those who were attending religious services. This was a very sad occurrence indeed, especially at a time when religious piety is supposed to be at its height, our bonds of humanity and brotherhood strengthened and our sense of tolerance deepened.

Since then many Christians have been haunted by a specter of disharmony as if disruptions might recur whenever Christmas was celebrated.

Half of Jakartans object to new houses of worship nearby: Survey
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Wed, 12/22/2010 5:45 PM

Almost half of Jakartans object to the establishment of other religions’ houses of worship in their neighborhoods, an NGO survey revealed.

“49.5 percent of our respondents disagreed with the establishment of other religions’ houses of worship. That percentage is quite high for plural Indonesia. Meanwhile, 45 percent had no problem accepting them and the remaining 5.5 percent did not answer or did not know,” SETARA Institute researcher Ismail Hasani said Wednesday.

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Vigilantes top lists of religious intolerance
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Wed, 12/22/2010 10:36 AM

Incidents of religious intolerance are on the rise this year – and vigilantes are behind many of the episodes, according to two recently released reports.

According to the Moderate Muslim Society’s (MMS) report, there were 81 cases of religious intolerance in 2010, up from 59 cases in 2009.

Sixty-three cases, or about 80 percent of the total, involved the attack or destruction of houses of worship across the nation.

A report released by the Wahid Institute on Tuesday recorded 133 challenges to religious freedom in 13 provinces across the nation. More than 80 percent of those cases were perpetrated by vigilantes from mass organizations, organized masses or individuals, according to the report.

The Islam Defenders Front (FPI) were near the top of both reports’ lists of perpetrators.

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Christians observe a peaceful Xmas
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sun, 12/26/2010 12:28 PM

Indonesian Christians celebrated Christmas in peace on Saturday, with almost no security threats reported.

In spite of recent religious tension, the Christmas observance also saw Muslims and Islamist organizations standing guard to help create a secure environment for Christians to observe the birth of Jesus.

In Jakarta, members of Muslim organizations like the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (Forkabi), the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama GP Ansor and the Maluku Muslim Youth Forum (FPMM), joined the police to stand guard at a number of churches for Christmas Mass services.

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Peaceful Christmas across the country: police
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, 12/25/2010 2:31 PM

The National Police say Christmas has so far been celebrated peacefully across the country, with no major incidents disrupting the festivities.

National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar said there had been hitherto no security issues since Christmas masses had begun on Friday evening.

“Nothing is significant; it’s safe throughout Indonesia,” Boy said, adding the police recorded only some traffic accidents nationwide.

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Citizens intimidate Christmas prayer in Bogor
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, 12/25/2010

Members of a church congregation gathering in Taman Yasmin, Bogor, are facing verbal intimidation from a group of citizens in the area for conducting a Christmas prayer.

The citizens, who claim to represent the interest of local Muslims, demand the prayer to stop or move elsewhere as they considered the activity to be illegal due to the absence of legal permit of the church.

The prayer is being held inside of the church, which is still under construction, and also outside where a small congregation gathers around a Christmas tree.

A banner held by two women wearing Muslim attires says the place where the prayer is being held is not a legitimate place for religious activity and demands the congregation to “pray at an appropriate place.”

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