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Muslim protestors call Christians “infidels” as church demolished in Indonesia

Country/Region: Indonesia, South and East Asia

Church buildings in Indonesia are under threat
Church buildings in Indonesia are under threat
  Dennis Kwaria / CC BY-SA 3.0

The authorities in Indonesia have carried out their threat to demolish a church building in Bekasi, West Java. Workers were cheered on by Muslim protestors, who denounced Christians as “infidels”.

HKBP Setu Church was sealed off on 7 March and the congregation were subsequently given a week to destroy their place of worship. The head of the Bekasi public order agency said that they would do it if the congregation did not.

Church members refused, so on Thursday (21 March), a bulldozer moved in. As the building was demolished, Pastor Leonard Nababan said that the government was "criminalising our religion".

The congregation had gathered at the site on Thursday morning in an effort to save the building. Muslim protestors also descended on it, shouting, "They're infidels and they've built their church without permission", "Knock the church down now" and "Allahu Akbar" ("god is great").

Police dispersed 200 Muslim women who encroached onto church land chanting verses from the Quran.

It has been suggested that the demolition was carried out in an effort to win support from the Islamic extremist fringe ahead of regional mayoral elections.

HKBP Setu held services at the site in a temporary shelter for 13 years unopposed before erecting a building in October 2012. The authorities took action against the church for not having the required permit. Mr Nababan insisted that the church had been trying to obtain a permit since 2011 and had complied with all the requirements but had been repeatedly refused.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy director of the Setara Institute of Peace and Democracy, said that the permit issue was being used as an excuse, adding:

The problem is the government has shown no political will to stop cases of intolerance in the country. It does not demand the law be upheld and that perpetrators are brought to account.

The congregation of HKBP Setu has vowed to continue holding services at the site.

Other churches in West Java that have faced ongoing opposition from the authorities, GKI Yasmin in Bogor and HKBP Filadelfia in Bekasi, are now thought to be at greater risk of demolition following the action taken against HKBP Setu.

 

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