by Stefan Bos, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) - Christians in a movement of former Muslims and other believers welcomed a decision by Indonesia's government to ban an Islamist group that attacked churches and other targets.
The Islamic Defenders Front, known as FPI, was declared a banned organization Wednesday for fueling terror and extremism, officials said.
"This is an answer to prayer," a Christian woman with close knowledge about the local situation told Worthy News.
The group was also known for inspiring anti-Christian sentiments. Ahead of Christmas, four Christians were killed in a terror attack on the Salvation Army church and service building in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province.
Six nearby houses of church members were also torched in the November 28 attack in the province's Sigi Regency area in Lembantongoa village.
In April, the FPI involved breaking up a house church meeting in the country's West Java province.
Video footage obtained by Worthy News and its news partner BosNewsLife showed two men bursting into a home in Cikarang, 48 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of Jakarta, the nation's capital.
Several sources confirmed that among the attackers was the area's senior FPI party official identified as Ustad Muliana. The video purportedly showed him and another person threatening worshippers. One of them physically attacked Christians with a piece of wood. No serious injuries were reported in the April incident.
Indonesia's security minister Mahfud MD said the group was prohibited with immediate effect amid concerns about these and other attacks. "The government has banned FPI activities and will stop any activities carried out by FPI," Mahfud said. "The FPI no longer has legal standing as an organization."
Six senior government officials, including the attorney general, police chief, and counter-terrorism agency head, were involved in the decision to ban the group, he added.
The ban comes shortly after the November return of the group's spiritual figurehead, Rizieq Shihab. He arrived in Indonesia from three years of self-exile in Saudi Arabia, celebrated with thousands of supporters.
The 55-year-old cleric was arrested this month and charged with violating health protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic. He remains in custody, while a clash between police and his supporters – in which six of his bodyguards were shot dead – is being investigated by the national human rights.
A never shown before video shown by the government during the announcement allegedly showed Rizieq pledging support for the terror group Islamic State and its caliphate. Worthy News could not immediately verify its authenticity.
That raised tensions with President Joko Widodo in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country of 267 million people.
Indonesian deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, said the FPI was outlawed because nearly 30 of its leaders, members, and former members had been convicted on terrorism charges.
He stressed that the group, formed in 1998, conflicted with the nation's state ideology, Pancasila, which emphasizes unity and diversity.