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Jakarta Post

Muslims lambast Christmas service raid in Bandung

  • Haeril Halim and Arya Dipa

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Bandung   /   Thu, December 8, 2016   /  07:01 am
Muslims lambast Christmas service raid in Bandung Christmas cheer: Students of Ester Pinaling Kindergarten light candles as part of Christmas festivities in Minahasa, North Sulawesi, on Tuesday. The pre-Christmas Eve activities include dance performances and Bible verse memorization demonstrations. (JP/Lita Aruperes)

The country’s largest Muslim organizations have vowed to help protect Christians across the country ahead of Christmas, in the wake of the latest intolerant act by hardliners against a Christian community in West Java’s provincial capital of Bandung.

The Reformed Injili Indonesia Church was forced to cancel a Christmas service at the Sasana Budaya Ganesha (Sabuga), a popular auditorium in Bandung, on Tuesday after a number of people calling themselves the Ahlu Sunnah Defenders (PAS) stormed into the building and broke up the service.

The protestors claimed the event to be “illegal” because it was held at a public facility.

The incident took place amid widespread religious tension centering on the blasphemy case levelled against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahja Purnama.

The country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) lashed out at PAS for its brutal action and asked the government “to dissolve such an anti-pluralist organization”.

NU said its youth wing Barisan Ansor Serbaguna (Banser) across the country would help ensure Christians could peacefully prepare for and celebrate Christmas.

“Banser members will be at the forefront of protecting Christian fellow citizens while conducting prayers and activities ahead of Christmas. This is in the name of tolerance,” NU deputy secretary-general Imam Pituduh told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Imam called on the government to investigate the motivation behind PAS’ disruption of the Christmas service in order to ensure the protection of minority groups.

Similarly, Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Islamic organization, said it would intensify interfaith dialogue.

Muhammadiyah Youth chairman Dahnil Simanjuntak said hard-line groups were also encouraged to participate in the discussions.

“They are just a few [groups]. There are a lot more Muslims who are more tolerant out there,” he told the Post.

Muhammadiyah has an interfaith program called “Clean, Pray and Love” (CPL) which encourages young people to engage in interfaith activities such as cleaning houses of worship, including churches and mosques.

The National Police said they would deploy a total of 155,000 personnel across the country from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2, 2017.

Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil said that the disrupted Christmas service was legal.

“We deplore the intimidation by the organization, which is inappropriate and disrespectful to the spirit of Bhineka Tunggal Ika [unity in diversity, the National Philosophy],” Ridwan said, adding that he was on a visit to Jakarta when the incident took place.

West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan, however, said the intolerant act was something that people “should not be worried about”.

“It’s just a minor incident,” said the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician.

Setara Institute chairman Hendardi said the recent large-scale anti-Ahok rallies could have emboldened intolerant groups.

Hendardi urged the authorities to bring the perpetrators of the Bandung incident to justice. “Otherwise, similar incidents could happen ahead of Christmas,” he said.

The Religious Affairs Ministry said the Bandung incident had inspired it to draft an article in the protection of religious followers bill, still being drawn up by the ministry, which will stipulate criminal charges for individuals and organizations that disrupt public religious activities.

The committee of the canceled Christmas service said in a statement that it had acquired all necessary permits.

“We regret the disruption by a number of people who represented an organization, and that the police failed to protect the dignity of the state and the constitution,” the statement said.

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