The Jakarta Post
Indonesia's pluralism, already marred with cases of intolerance against Shia and Ahmadiyah followers, is facing a bigger challenge after the bombing of a Jakarta vihara occuring less than a week before Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadhan.
On Sunday night, a low-powered explosive went off inside the Ekayana Buddhist temple in West Jakarta, injuring three people and destroying part of the site.
While authorities and terrorism experts were still looking for a motive for the bombing, including whether it was linked to the violent conflicts between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, religious leaders were wary that Sunday's attack would wreak havoc on Indonesia's religious life.
Indonesian Buddhists Association (Walubi) deputy chairman Suhadi Senjaja said he condemned the attack and warned the Buddhist community to not be easily provoked by it and to maintain peace during the holy month of Ramadhan. 'The principle of Buddhism is that there should be no violence and that there should be no hatred,' he said.
Sunday's attack was the first incident in which the Buddhists became a target. Buddhists account for less than one percent of Indonesia's population, about 90 percent of which is Muslim.
In the past, attacks were targeted at churches. In 2000, bombs exploded in various towns on Christmas Day, killing 19 people and injuring dozens of others. The terror continued in December 2004, when the police discovered homemade bombs in Riau and West Java, suspected to be aimed at creating public unrest ahead of the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Lt. Gen. (ret.) Marciano Norman said the bombing could have been linked to the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, who faced persecution in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. 'I think the perpetrators were just aiming to make a mess here. They tried to provoke Buddhists and Muslims.'
Terrorism expert Noor Huda Ismail told The Jakarta Post that the bombing was probably a follow up from previously failed bombing attempts at the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta. He added that the bombing was not aimed to inflict casualties, but as a wake-up call for the government.
Indonesian Mosque Council (DMI) chairman Jusuf Kalla, who recently led a humanitarian mission to Myanmar, called on the followers of both faiths to refrain from violence. 'I strongly encourage adherents in both countries [Indonesia and Myanmar] to calm down and not respond to the attack,' Kalla told reporters at DMI's headquarters in Central Jakarta. 'Violence is contagious, thus all of us should do our best to prevent it from becoming widespread,' he added.
The former vice president said that Muslims should not be provoked by the violence in Myanmar as things had improved there over the past couple of months thanks to the ongoing efforts to promote peace there.
The police, however, were cautious to link the bombing with the violence in Myanmar. National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie said the police were still thoroughly investigating the incident to ascertain the real motive behind the attack that left three people injured on Sunday evening.
'For the time being, we cannot announce which group was involved in such an attack because we are still gathering all the evidence' Ronny told reporters at the National Police's headquarters on Monday.
Captured footage by security cameras at the temple reportedly showed an unidentified man entering the temple during a crowded sermon on Sunday evening with two packages.
The footage also showed paper stating 'Kami menjawab Jeritan Rohingya' (We are responding to the cries of the Rohingyas) found among the ruins.
Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, meanwhile, also said he condemned the bombing at the Ekayana Buddhist temple, saying the action was unjustifiable.
'I condemn what happened last night for whatever reasons, including on behalf of a certain religion. This is not the right way to convey solidarity,' said the minister. (koi)
Incidents of violence ahead of religious holidays
Dec. 25, 2000: At least 19 people were killed and dozens of others were injured when bombs exploded almost simultaneously in or outside churches in various towns, as Christian communities prepared to celebrate Christmas.
Dec. 15, 2004: Riau Police discover four home-made bombs in a house in the Dumai area, which they believe would have been used to attack churches around Christmas time.
Dec. 17, 2004: Police discover nine bombs inside a Mekar raya bus traveling between the town of Garut and the Cicaheum terminal in Bandung. West Java Police suspected that the group planned to create public unrest ahead of the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Sept. 12, 2010: Two pastors from the Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP) are attacked as they, along with HKBP worshippers, are on their way to a Sunday service at the church's construction site at Ciketing village in Bekasi, West Java. The incident was just a day after Idul Fitri celebrations.
Aug. 4, 2013: A bomb explodes inside the Ekayana Buddhist Vihara in West Jakarta, injuring three people and destroying some parts of the site. The incident occurred four days before Idul Fitri.