Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Indonesia Warns Of Christianization Threat Over Proposal To Build Church

Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, and minorities have had a difficult time preserving their religious freedoms. The latest strain on religious relations in the country follows Indonesian Inslamists who are up in arms over the proposal to build a church in Bekasi, which has a Muslim-majority. Rallies continue to be held opposing the construction of the church and warn against the Christianization of Indonesia.
In June, the Bekasi F.P.I. leader told The Jakarta Globe, “All Muslims should unite and be on guard because … the Christians are up to something.” He also suggested that it might be necessary for mosques to establish militias and be prepared to fight a “war” to prevent “Christianization.”

As Al Jazeera explained in a video report last week, the small Christian group said that it had obtained all the necessary signatures from local residents who agreed to allow them to build their church, but then the Islamist vigilantes pressed people to withdraw their approval.

F.P.I. vigilantes have attacked a wide range of targets in the past, throwing rocks at members of minority Muslim sects, beating gay people, destroying bars and vowing to track down the editor of Indonesia’s short-lived version of Playboy magazine, Erwin Arnada, who is now in hiding.

As Reuters explained in June when the vigilantes attacked a group of Indonesian legislators, the F.P.I. “attracts limited support in moderate, majority Muslim Indonesia, but fear of being seen as defending vice means politicians and police often turn a blind eye to their attacks on targets, such as transvestites, which are deemed un-Islamic.”
It's not quite a mirror image to the debate about the Cordoba House proposal to build an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero, but the parallels shouldn't be lost on anyone here.

It does, however, show that the world over struggles with religious freedoms and stresses that the United States and its First Amendment protections for free exercise of religion are there for a reason. Religious intolerance has been a significant issue as the central government has left issues largely up to the regional governments, increasing the intolerance of minority religious groups.

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