Jakarta Cardinal calls on police to protect churches from attacks

Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, Archbishop of Jakarta, yesterday visited Indonesian Police Chief General Sutanto, to demand that the security forces protect every faith group in case of new attacks by religious extremists.

AsiaNews reports that Cardinal Darmaatmadja was accompanied by Kiai Haj Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organisation in the country, and Rev Andreas Yewangoe, chairman of the Indonesian (Protestant) Synod of Churches.

After the meeting, Cardinal Darmaatmadja said that whatever problem may exist between religious denominations should be dealt with peacefully.

"The problem should not be kept alive by the violence of illegal groups," he said.

Kiai Muzadi further reiterated that the police must intervene whenever Muslim fundamentalists try to forcibly close down churches. "They should not take the law into their own hands," he said. Instead, the "police should assist in clearing up any problems. Dialogue is a more appropriate way."

The move by the three religious leaders comes after a statement by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in which he pledged his government's resolve to guarantee religious freedom.

In the statement released on Sunday, the President called on the national police to prevent any acts of violence against any religious denomination.

Mr Susilo also ordered Minister for Religious Affairs Haj Maftuh Basyuni and local leaders to quickly find a solution to the violence in Bandung (West Java).

With the backing of former President Abdurrahman Wahid (aka Gus Dur), thousands of Christians demonstrated in Jakarta on Saturday against the closure of 23 churches in the aforementioned province by the Islamic Defender Front (IDF), an Islamic fundamentalist group.

IDF chairman Habieb Rizieq retorted that none of the buildings shut down were churches but houses where religious services and prayers were organised without a permit.

Mr Rizieq recently received Fr Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest and peace activist and Reverend Sairin.

During the meeting, Mr Rizieq expressed his group's willingness to "prevent any attack against legal churches as long as they stay legal".

Cardinal of Jakarta calls on police to protect churches from attacks by fundamentalists (AsiaNews.it 6/9/05)

Three Christian women jailed for "proselytising' (AsiaNews.it 6/9/05)
Indonesian Muslim Assails Forced Closure of Churches (Zenit 4/9/05)

7 Sep 2005