Aday after the Bekasi government sealed another Protestant church because of constant pressure from hard-line groups, the Islamic Defenders Front said on Tuesday that it would insist that the city issue policies in line with its view of Islam.
The Jakarta suburb is increasingly becoming a religious battleground as hard-line Islamists claim that Christian zealots have targeted the community.
On Sunday, as a conservative Islamic congress discussed a plan to bring Bekasi more in line with its interpretation of Islam, city officials sealed the HKBP (Batak Christian Protestant Church) Pondok Timur Indah church in Mustika Jaya subdistrict.
‘The congress officially set down 32 points of recommendation that it will forward to the Bekasi city administration to strengthen Islamic values. We are going to announce the final version of those recommendations this Sunday and issue them,’ Abdul Qodir Aka, an official from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), told the Jakarta Globe.
‘One of the two primary recommendations is that we want the administration to work toward a Bekasi that is in line with Islam’s principles. The other one is that the local administration must avoid making policies that will hurt the Muslims of Bekasi.’
The administration pulled down the ‘Tiga Mojang,’ or Three Girls, statue on Saturday. The statue at the Harapan Indah residential complex was dismantled after demonstrations by hard-line pressure groups that deemed the sculpture at odds with conservative Muslim views, despite its artistic merit in the eyes of many.
Abdul said the Islamic c ongress in Bekasi was held after a number of Islamic organizations ‘ including the FPI and the Bekasi Islamic Missionary Council (DDI Bekasi) ‘ made it known to Bekasi Mayor Mochtar Mohammad that more demonstrations would target his office if the congress was not allowed.
He said that on June 13, Mochtar signed an agreement with FPI Bekasi frontman Mur??hali Barda on behalf of hard-line groups that contained four primary points, one being that the ‘Tiga Mojang’ statue must be removed as soon as possible and that the HKBP Pondok Timur Indah church must be sealed.
Bekasi administration spokesman Endang Suharyadi acknowledged that closing the church was part of the June 13 demands.
‘But we acted on it because the congregants held prayers in a place where they were not supposed to. So the demands [of the Islamic organizations] had a legal basis,’ Endang said.
HKBP Pondok Timur Indah members have been worshipping in a house at Mustika Jaya since 2004, after their request to build a church was ignored by the local administration. The congregation’s 1,500 members have since been meeting in private houses.
Bekasi secretary Tjandra Utama Efendi said: ‘We’ve warned them [members] over and over but they never listened. We also offered them a hall at the Bekasi Social Agency.’
The Rev. Gomar Gultom of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) on Tuesday demanded that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono act on the intimidation and threats suffered by certain religious groups.
‘Last month there were text messages that went around calling all Bekasi Muslims to gather strength because Bekasi has been besieged by churches,’ he said.
‘Those are baseless accusations. If churches have increased in number, it is normal, because the population is growing, not because of Christianization.’
‘I never experienced anything like that here. I never think bad of people, especially when it comes to faith and religions. To me faith is a private thing.’
Iwan Dwi Setiawan, 39, a machine-shop owner, said: ‘Even in Islam we have ‘for me it is my religion and your religion is for you.’ I think the government should be more assertive toward certain groups. Like the ‘Tiga Mojang’ statue, most people I know feel it’s a shame that it was removed.’
Fredy Yanto, operational director of the Harapan Indah developer, PT Hasanah Damai Putra, said the statue was currently ‘resting’ at its office until the company decided what to do with the now-famous artwork.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika denied reports that he wanted to buy the statue.