By Eric Leijenaar, BosNewsLife Senior Special Correspondent in the Netherlands with reporting from Iraq
JAKARTA/AMSTERDAM (BosNewsLife) -- Hundreds of Muslim militants stormed and destroyed a Protestant church in Indonesiaâ€™s province of West Java amid growing religious tensions in the region, a Netherlands-based Christian rights group reported Tuesday, November 27.
Open Doors said "about 250 radical muslims" of the 'Anti Apostasy Movement Alliance' (AAMA) forced their way into the Pasundan Christian Church in the South Bandung area of West Java on November 18, "destroying the locked doors."
The building was empty at the time and Pastor Cristine Yohanes was away, but her husband and children were forced to hide nearby, Open Doors said, citing sources in the volatile region.
After holding an Islamic prayer service in the church, the militants began "to destroy the interior with sticks and knifes," reportedly said Pastor Simon Timorason, who leads the West Java branch of Christian Communication Forum, an umbrella group of Indonesian churches.
The sound installation, as well as glass works and chairs were destroyed and taken outside, the pastor added. This was not the first time AAMA activists attacked the church, which claims to have over 300 members and has operated for more than half a century, BosNewsLife monitored.
There were similar reports in 2005 when the believers were forced to close their building by local authorities who accused them of lacking proper documents.
Timorason has accused police of reluctance to intervene, although two suspects have reportedly been detained. "We urge the government to take this case seriously because we have heard that a dozen other churches have been nominated [by extremists] for attacks in the coming weeks."
In recent years at least more than 100 churches were closed in West Java, amid increased concern over what Christians described as "an increased radicalization of Islam in Indonesia." Throughout 2007, at least 25 Christian worship places were forced to close, or attacked and destroyed by militants, Open Doors added. The suspects remain at large. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation. (With BosNewsLife Research).
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