No arrests have been made since 600 Islamists hurled bags filled with urine and ditchwater at about 100 members of a church last week and threatened to kill its pastor.
Police looked on as the mob attacked the Philadelphia Batak Christian Protestant Church worshipping on the street in Bekasi, near Jakarta in West Java Province, on Thursday (May 17), church attorney Saor Siagian told Compass by phone.
The mob, which included the chairman of the Bekasi chapter of the extremist Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), began to throw urine, ditchwater, rotten eggs, stones and dirt when Pastor Palti Panjaitan came to address the congregation. The church had to disperse, Siagian said.
Pastor Panjaitan told local media he received a death threat and has filed a police complaint.
Authorities had asked the church, part of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan denomination and located in Jejalen Raya village, to worship at a site about six miles from church land, Siagian said.
The church applied for a permit to construct its house of worship five years ago as mandated by law. The local administration asked it to shut down in December 2009. The Supreme Court overruled the administration’s decision in July last year, saying the church was eligible for a permit, but due to pressure from Islamist groups, Bekasi officials insist the congregation meet elsewhere.
Like the Batak Christian Protestant Church, the Gereja Kristen Indonesia church (GKI-Yasmin Church), also is being denied permission to meet for worship on its property despite a favorable Supreme Court order. The Protestant Church Union (known locally as PGI) is urging the government to take action.
“The problem is police and government are not strict,” The Jakarta Globe quoted the PGI’s Jeirry Sumampow as saying. “We don’t have certainty now. We don’t know who will back us. We cannot do anything without the state’s guarantee [on religious freedom]. … Performing religious duties should be acknowledged as religious expression and therefore should be protected.”
Indonesia’s most influential Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, also criticized the government.
“By law, the government has a duty to offer security and protection if there is a citizen, regardless of religion, who feels that they cannot perform their religious duty, or feels threatened when doing so, including building places of worship,” Abdul Mufti, the group’s secretary, reportedly said.