By Mike Bouwer
Jakarta, Indonesia (Worthy News) -- Hundreds of Muslim militants surrounded and attacked a Protestant church in Indonesia's province of West Java, injuring at least a dozen Christians including a pastor on Sunday, August 8.
An angry mob of Muslim militants surrounded the congregation of the Batak Christian Protestant Church in West Java while they were holding a service in an open field, and despite the presence of 300 police sent to "protect" the congregation, the mob attacked them. The attack left at least a dozen people injured, including the pastor, Rev. Luspida Simanjunta.
This is the fifth reported attack on the church.
CHURCH CLOSED, FORCED TO MEET IN FIELD
In 1998, the congregation purchased a plot of land and had begun to construct a church on the land after gathering the necessary consent from 200 residents and local officials.
In 2000, a 500-strong mob burned down the partially completed church building. So the church purchased a house to use as a church facility and re-submitted a formal application to construct another building. The application remained unanswered for over a year as Islamic fundamentalist groups stepped up their protests against the congregation.
When the application to build the church was officially turned down in 2009, authorities then sealed the temporary church facility. So the church secured permission to hold services in an open field, where the attack took place on Sunday, August 8.
Judianto Simanjuntak, legal counsel for the church, said the group planned to hold their next Sunday service in front of the State Palace. By doing this they hope to seek the protection of the government of their right to hold Christian services in West Java.
CHRISTIANS BLAMED FOR THE ATTACK
The Islamic fundamentalists defended their actions saying that Christians were provoking attacks because they are trying to convert Muslims. They cited an internet report that a local Christian charity, the Mahanaim Foundation, recently conducted a mass baptism. However, this was refuted by the Foundation who said the meeting was in connection with their outreach program for the poor.
The Bekasi Police chief Iman Sugianto blamed the victims for the attack. "We have warned the congregation not to hold their services in the area, because residents do not want them to do so, but they did not follow our instructions," Iman told the Jakarta Post.
Tensions are high in the region following a Muslim congress held in June where it was decided to unite against the "Christianization" in the area.
Approximately 86%, or about 200 million, of Indonesia’s population identify as Muslims, making it the world's largest Muslim population.
The Indonesian Central Statistic Bureau indicated in 2000, that of 240,271,522 people, 86.1% of the population label themselves Muslim 5.7% Protestant 3% Catholic 1.8% Hindu, and 3.4% "other or unspecified.
In general, the Muslim community can be categorized in terms of two orientations: "modernists," who closely adhere to orthodox theology while embracing modern learning; and "traditionalists," who tend to follow the interpretations of local religious leaders (predominantly on Java, where the attacks have taken place) and religious teachers at Islamic boarding schools.