The head of Indonesian bishops says Islamic fundamentalists in Indonesia are attacking Christians with impunity. Intolerance seems to be on the rise despite the fact that freedom of religion is guaranteed.
Christians are increasingly under attack in Indonesia
Indonesia's most recent church bombing took place on September 25 in the town of Solo. Beni Asri has been arrested at his home town of Solok in West Sumatra for his alleged involvement in the attack, in which 27 people were injured. He is also suspected of having connections with members of a group founded by militant spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir who was jailed earlier this year. The 26-year-old Asri had been one of Indonesia’s four top terror suspects wanted for allegedly plotting an April suicide bombing that injured 30 police officers during prayer in a mosque in Cirebon.
Attacks have been increasing in Indonesia. Last month a suicide bomber blew himself up in a packed church in Solo, wounding 27 people. A similar attack took place five months ago in Cirebon, both on the island of Java.
Officers stand guard after an attack on a church on September 25 in Solo
The September 25 bombing at the Bethel Injil Protestant church was carried out by 31-year-old Ahmad Yosepa Hayat, who police suspect had also been involved in the Cirebon attack.
In February this year, a 1,500-strong mob of Muslims set two churches alight and ransacked a third in the town of Temanggung, on Java island. They had demanded that a Christian man be sentenced to death for insulting Islam.
Fanaticism on the rise
On October 4 during a visit to the Vatican the head of Indonesian bishops Martinus Dogma Situmorang told the Vatican's l'Osservatore Romano "Muslim fanatics are staging violence and denying basic religious freedom and stopping the construction of places of worship and the practice of Christianity.
"These incidents are either being tolerated or authorities are turning a blind eye without taking any legal action. Because in their eyes it is less serious even though they were accompanied by violence," he added.
Radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was arrested last year
With great dismay Situmorang said that even if extremists and radicals behind these attacks are brought to justice, the "punishments accorded are not proportionate to their acts." He warned that fanaticism was on the rise but security forces appeared to have become weaker.
Freedom of religion
Indonesia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion but rights groups say violence against minorities including Christians and the Ahmadiyyah Islamic sect has escalated since 2008.
More than 80 percent of Indonesi'a estimated 240 million people are Muslim with five percent Protestants and three percent Catholic.
Agencies: AFP, Reuters (mj)
Editor: Sarah Berning