5 Years and 200 Attacks on Indonesian Churches
President Fails to Respond
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ROME, JUNE 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Since 2006, there have been more than 200 attacks on churches in Indonesia, but the president is seen as "rather hesitant" when it comes to protecting the Christian minority in the country.
Theophilus Bela, president of the Jakarta Christian community forum, spoke with the international charity Aid to the Church in Need about the problem.
Bela noted that in the first five months of this year there were 14 attacks on churches and 46 in 2010 as a whole.
Bela blames the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for not doing enough to tackle Islamist anti-Christian violence.
"President Yudhoyono sleeps if there is an attack on Christian churches," Bela said. "If the president sleeps, so do the police."
Yudhoyono took the presidency in 2004; since then, there have been 286 attacks on churches, higher than at any time except during the country's political uprisings in the late 1990s.
"Mr. Yudhoyono gives the impression that he is rather hesitant to protect the Christians," Bela said.
He stated that Indonesia's 28.5 million Christian community remains the most persecuted religious group in the country.
Indonesia is only about 3% Catholic and about 6% Protestant. The majority of the country, some 86%, are Muslim.
Explaining the long-term rise in extremist attacks on Christians, Bela said that urban-based Muslims had reacted badly to Christians coming in from rural areas in search of jobs created by the government's investment in city factories and other businesses.
He said extremists were also enraged by court proceedings against Abu Bakar Bashir, who allegedly masterminded attacks on churches.
Nevertheless, Bela said, churches remain full.
"We Christians are not afraid, because we are also citizens of this country, like other groups of our society," he said. "Our country is based on a pluralistic ideology … and we do not have a state religion in our country."