The Jakarta Post
Hundreds of people plundered and burned down several Buddhist temples or vihara in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, on Friday evening. No fatalities or injuries occurred in the anarchic acts, which took place until early Saturday.
It is estimated that the attacks have caused billions of rupiah in losses.
North Sumatra Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Rina Sari Ginting said the riots began when a 41-year-old of Chinese descent, only identified as Meliana, reprimanded an administrator of the Al Maksum Mosque to lower its microphone volume.
Rina further said Meliana had previously conveyed similar warnings to the administrator, hence, the mosque’s congregation members visited her house following her complaint for the umpteenth time on Friday evening.
The meeting between Al Maksum congregation members and Meliana heated up, forcing Tanjung Balai Police officers to safeguard Meliana and her husband at the police station. Angry mobs continued to flock to Meliana’s house, however. Some had even attempted to burn down the house but it was prevented by people living in the neighbourhood.
People who had been seized by emotion later moved to the Juanda Vihara, which is located approximately 500 meters from Meliana’s house. “The mob attempted to set ablaze the vihara but the police managed to prevent them. They could only pelt the house of worship with projectiles, damaging it. This was the start of the anarchic acts,” Rina told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
The police officer said that in the riot, the angry mob damaged and burned down several vihara and Chinese temples or pagoda. They comprised one vihara and three pagodas on Jl. Pantai Amor, one vihara on Jl. Imam Bonjol and one pagoda on Jl. Ade Irma.
Onsite at the vihara and pagodas, Rina added that the mob destroyed prayer equipment, Buddha statues, tables, chairs, lamps, and several cars and motorbikes.
Seven people were taken into custody for allegedly plundering the houses of worship when the attacks occurred. Meanwhile, Rina said, Meliana and her family were still in protection at the Tanjung Balai Police station. The situation in Tanjung Balai reportedly has calmed down. (ebf)