Islamic fundamentalists in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, are attacking Christians with impunity.
Indonesia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion but rights groups say violence against minorities including Christians and the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect has escalated since 2008.
In February 2011, a 1,500-strong mob of Muslims set two churches alight and ransacked a third in the town of Temanggung, on Java island, as they demanded that a Christian man be sentenced to death for insulting Islam.
Situmorang said even if extremists and radicals behind these attacks were brought to justice, the “punishments accorded are not proportionate to their acts.”
More than 80 percent of Indonesia’s estimated 240 million people are Muslim. Five percent are Protestants and three percent Catholic.
For many critics, Indonesia’s religious persecution is exemplified by the GKI Yasmin Church, which is an example of the local government’s continued apathy towards the plight of the Christian minority.
The GKI Yasmin Church, located in Bogor, Indonesia, has suffered a round of attacks in the past years. The most recent attack happened on Sunday, Jan. 15, when two members of the country’s House of Representatives, Eva Kusuma Sundari and Lily Wahid, joined the GKI Christian congregation during their morning service.
The service was interrupted when members of Muslim hardline groups, the Indonesian Muslim Communication Forum (Forkami) and the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis), assaulted the Christian worshippers.
According to the Jakarta Globe, the Muslim groups began to mock and shove members of the congregation, who have been forced to worship in a supermarket parking lot due to the government-approved closure of their Church.
The GKI Yasmin congregation has been at odds with the local Bogor government since 2008, when the city administration sealed the Church premises, allegedly because it lacked the proper permit. The Church remains sealed, even though the Supreme Court ruled the premise legal for worship in 2009.
GKI Yasmin congregants have taken the public parking lots and private homes to continue their community worship. Clashes with members of Muslim hardline groups often ensue when services are held.
Although Sunday’s attack did interrupt the congregation’s service, it also brought the plight of the congregation to the attention of the government officials in attendance.
Both Representative Sundari and Wahid have condemned the violence. Rep. Sundari told the Jakarta Globe that Sunday’s attack represents the unsuppressed intolerance of Indonesia’s minorities.
“The GKI Yasmin case isn’t just about the church, but about national integrity and the rule of law,” Sundari said.
Human rights groups have maintained a close watch on Indonesia over the past couple of years. According to Open Doors USA, “Shariah-inspired laws are creeping into civil policies and regulations at the regency level, which often take precedence when believers are disadvantaged.”
Similarly, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) wrote in its 2011 Indonesia report that “under the banner of Islamic orthodoxy, groups espousing intolerance and extremism have intimidated, discriminated against, and committed acts of violence against religious minorities.”
According to religious persecution watchdog The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world and third largest democracy. Although it struggles to maintain religious tolerance, its Christian evangelical count has increased from 1.3 million to 13 million in the last 50 years. (Christian Post Feb 14. 2012)