Indonesian church leaders call attack on Christians 'barbaric'

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Nine people have been arrested for the assault in a country that is 86 percent Muslim

September 17, 2010 | Web First
By Hisashi Yukimoto | Ecumenical News International
Police officers stand guard as Pondok Timur Indah Christians worship in a field in Bekasi. --AP photo in the Jakarta Globe

Leaders of the Protestant Christian Batak Church, a Lutheran church in Indonesia, have condemned the beatings and stabbings of its pastor and church members in Bekasi, outside the capital Jakarta in West Java, on Sept. 12.

"Rev. Mother Luspida Simanjuntak, Mr Sintua Hasian and several other church members were suddenly attacked by some unidentified men riding a motorcycle," said Bishop Bonar Napitupulu and the general secretary, the Rev. Ramlan Hutahaean, on Sept. 15. 

"Sintua Hasian was attacked with sharp weapons, while the Rev. Mother Luspida Simanjuntak and several other church members suffered bruises caused by blows and kicks. " Such actions are barbaric," they said in their statement.

The leaders of the church known as Huria Kristen Batik Protestan in Indonesian said, "The events took place very rapidly." 

Nine people have been arrested for the assault, and the country's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had said that he had been "unhappy" about the incident, the Jakarta Post daily newspaper reported.

Another Indonesian newspaper, the Jakarta Globe, reported the head of the Bekasi branch of the Islamic Defenders Front, an extremist group, was being questioned over his alleged involvement in the stabbing of a church member from the church.

The church was reported saying it had received a warning letter from the Bekasi police urging congregation members not to attend church services.

"We immediately called on the government to be proactive in solving problems [regarding] the right to worship of the church members," church leaders said.

"For us it is clear that the action of the perpetrators was a planned action," they added.

Indonesia has a population of around 240 million people of whom about 86 percent are Muslims, making it the most populous Islamic nation. Although it has a secular constitution the government has faced growing demands and some violent attacks from extremists.

The Batak Christian Protestant Church is the largest Protestant denomination in Indonesia and the largest Lutheran church in Asia. 

Police officers stand guard as Pondok Timur Indah Christians worship in a field in Bekasi. --AP photo in the Jakarta Globe

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