ASIA/INDONESIA - Christians alarm: forbidden to celebrate Christmas in Java
Bogor (Agenzia Fides) - Thanks to an unfortunate alliance between the civil authorities and Islamic extremist groups, the Catholic faithful of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Parung, south of Jakarta (in the Diocese of Bogor), cannot celebrate Christmas Mass.
A garrison of Islamic extremists appeared a few days near the church. A banner reads ominously: "We, the Muslim people of Parung, support and will put into practice the decree of Regent No 453.2/556, which orders to stop the religious activities of the Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist".
Local sources of Fides confirm that the Regency of Bogor (administrative unit) has issued an order "prohibiting Christians public religious activities " and, in fact, does not allow the Christians to celebrate Christmas, citing "security reasons".
"It is a story that repeats itself and that also took place last year when we celebrated Christmas in a parking lot," says a Catholic from Parung to Fides. The faithful are scared of violence and fear those who approach the church.
Christmas celebrations and any public expression of religion will not be allowed, even to the "Indonesian Christian Church" (Gereja Kristen Indonesia, GKI) in Bogor. The GKI, Protestant denomination with a strong presence on the island of Java, continues its struggle for the rule of law: though having received regular approval to build a church in Bogor, the realization of the work is hindered by the Islamic militants and also by the Mayor of Bogor, Diani Budiarto, who issued an order revoking the permit (see Fides 23/07/2011).
The unfavorable climate towards Christians also extends to the churches already built. Fr. Emanuel Harja, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Indonesia, explains to Fides: "There is unrest in the area of West Java for the presence of Islamic militants Defenders Front (FPI).
During 2011 there have been several incidents of violence. For many in the Christian communities the right to worship and practice their faith is severely limited or denied. Extremist groups are small but strong, and would only like an Islamic nation and to impose the Sharia law. But this goes against the Constitution, against the Pancasila (the five basic principles of the country) and against pluralism that is a fundamental character of Indonesia.
The authorities have the obligation to stop them, but sometimes this does not happen". The PMS National Director concludes: "We express our solidarity to the Christians in Bogor. A road that can be taken to try to overcome the problem is dialogue and interaction between Christian and Muslim leaders, to desist extremists from their intentions " . (PA) (Agenzia Fides 21/12/2011)
By: Ignatius Ismartono
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