Headlines

Muslims threaten churches
in W. Sumatra

Although the dust from the persecution of minority Shiite Muslims in Sampang, Madura, has not settled, another religious controversy has emerged, this time in West Pasaman, West Sumatra.

A mob numbering in the hundreds and grouped under the banner of the Islamic Organizations Communication Forum (FKOI) descended on two churches on Tuesday: Stasi Mahakarya and GPSI (Gereja Pentakosta Sion Indonesia).

Those in the crowd threatened to use force to stop the congregations from building additional structures in their compounds, nailing wooden boards outside the churches.

However, the mob was not able to come too close to the houses of worship, which were guarded by nearly 200 police officers and Indonesian Military (TNI) troops.

West Pasaman Regent Baharuddin said on Friday that he would ensure the safety of all religious followers to perform divine services. “Not a single stone will be thrown at other religious followers in West Pasaman. I assure you of that,” Baharuddin told The Jakarta Post by telephone on Friday.

Baharuddin’s support for religious freedom was tempered by his support for the protestors, who, before visiting the churches, forced several cafes they said were selling alcoholic drinks to close. “I thank them for helping the government to discipline the cafes. Also, the church needs to seek permits before expanding its building.”

FKOI chairman Achmad Namlis said that organization’s efforts were made only to remind the churches to obtain permits before launching new construction projects.

“This is not the tyranny of the majority. We’ll let the Christians perform their rituals as long as they don’t breach regulations,” Achmad, who is the chairman of the local Muhammadiyah chapter, said.

Rev. Bernard, a pastor at one of the churches, said that two Islamic organizations had rejected the permit he applied for three years ago. “We will soon prepare the documents to get the permit,” Bernard said.

Separately, in Banten province, representatives of the premodern Badui indigenous community have asked for their religious beliefs, which are not recognized as a state-approved religion, be indicated on their electronic identity cards (e-IDs).

“We request that the government make a regulation that will enable our beliefs to be stated on our e-IDs,” Dainah, a Badui community leader, said in Jakarta on Friday.

Several Badui were in Jakarta at the Home Ministry’s civil and citizenship administration directorate, hoping that the ministry would acknowledge their request.

However, Home Ministry spokesman Reydonnyzar Moenek said that the ministry had to adhere to the law. The Badui’s beliefs, according to Reydonnyzar, cannot be considered as a state-sanctioned religion.

“The law has clearly stated that the religion column in IDs can only be filled by religions that have been recognized by the Constitution,” Reydonnyzar told the Post.

Despite repeated requests, the government has declined to sanction the Badui’s indigenous belief, Sunda Wiwitan, which has existed in Indonesia since before Hinduism entered the nation in around the first century AD. Their population currently numbers around 7,000.

From 1972 until 2010, the Badui had their beliefs printed on their IDs, a practice that was banned after the enactment of Law No. 23/2006 on civil administration.

The law stipulates that the religion column of ID cards of citizens whose faith has not been recognized as a religion should be left blank. (riz)

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