Islamic Hardliners in Indonesia Complain of “Christianization”, Make Threats

As has been widely reported, Islamic hardliners in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta, have been throwing their weight around – and now posters have appeared calling for the lynching of a local Christian. The AP reports:

Outsiders have steadily poured into the Jakarta suburb in search of work, bringing with them their own religions, traditions and values. That has made conservative Islamic clerics nervous.

…In this context, it wasn’t surprising that when 14 busloads of villagers arrived last week at the Bekasi home of Henry Sutanto, who heads the Christian-run Mahanaim Foundation, rumors quickly spread that he and one of his colleagues, Andreas Sanau, were planning a mass baptism.

…The house has since been abandoned. [Sanau] ‘s bespectacled face now appears on a banner—draped in front of a mosque—with a fiery noose around his neck and the words, “This man deserves the death penalty!”

Leading the demands for action against “Christianization” is Murhali Barda of the thuggish Islamic Defenders Front, although he’s not the only one; the Jakarta Globe notes that

In a move that could add to already simmering religious tensions in Bekasi, a new group calling itself the Bekasi Islamic Presidium is planning a roadshow aimed at persuading every mosque in the city to prepare for the possibility of “war” against “Christianization.”

The group, consisting of nine members representing different Islamic organizations in the city, was formed on Sunday, the last day of the Bekasi Islamic Congress at Al Azhar Mosque that was convened to address the so-called Christianization problem.

A second article has further details of a meeting the week before:

Abdul Qodir Aka, a local official with the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), told the Jakarta Globe that the congress’s objective was to “create recommendations for the Bekasi administration on what steps it should take in the wake of recent incidents of defamation” of Islam.

Abdul Qodir was referring to Abraham Felix, a 16-year-old student of SMA 5 high school in Bekasi. Pictures of Abraham stomping on a Koran, the Islamic holy book, and one of him allegedly putting it in a toilet were posted on a blog, enraging the local Islamic community.

Police arrested Abraham in May on suspicion of creating the blog. He was charged with Article 156 of the Criminal Code for religious blasphemy.

That same month, the St. Bellarminus Catholic school in Bekasi was attacked by a group of people over another blog post, suspected to be Abraham’s work, which displayed the school’s name and posted pictures and writings that defamed Islam.

Abdul Qodir said on Sunday that the Islamic Congress was supported by the Bekasi administration, and was the culmination of talks between members of the local FPI chapter and Mayor Mochtar Mohamad.

The Malaysia Star has some further background:

“The job of the militia is to monitor the activities of Christians as there are many cases of apostates, baptism,” said Murhali Barda, head of the Bekasi chapter of the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who participated in the meeting.

…In February, FPI forcibly shut down the Galilea Church in Bekasi.

The Protestant Filadelfia Church in Bekasi have been holding services by the roadside since its church was shut down in January by another hardline group called the Islamic Communication Forum (FKUI).

“Since January, hundreds of demonstrators screaming ‘Burn!’, ‘Forbidden!’ will descend on us almost every weekend during service,” said Reverend Palti Panjaitan of Filadelfia Church.

“The site where we hold services are also often smeared with carcasses, animal faeces and rotten eggs,” added Rev Panjaitan.

As for the supposed “mass baptism”; the Jakarta Globe again:

Bekasi Police Chief Sr. Comr Imam Sugianto denied there had been a mass baptism. “All of them were students and they were at that house for recreation. They all went there for a swim,” he said.

Some poorly translated articles on Voice of al-Islam give the Islamist version of events, which show suspicion over Christian symbols:

The blasphemy procession of Islam was  done in carnival programme of “Bekasi free of drugs” sunday, may,2. While holding a poster Bekasi city drugs committee, Benny Tunggul claimed that the programme was conducted by BNK cooperated with team commitee. That activity was led by Wong Christofer Cahyadi.

Twenty participants who wore Christian symbols made step into they yard of al- Barkah Bekasi great mosque. They made a line on the direction of mosque and formed ” The crown of pope and cross” formation.

…Chinese person at the front line brought purple crown of pope. it placed on tray that decorated with purple velvet cloth. Second person stood behind held up his stick on. next, someone dressed in the style of roman army, cross  white colored imitation sword. Combination between stick and sword at the yard of the great mosque formed cross formation. It emerged many critics from moslem on Bekasi.

A photo shows a Christian poster of man holding a crown and sceptre; this is probably what is meant by the “crown of pope”, although more likely it was some sort of symbol of the authority of God (see below).


At first, the carnival parade was run so well, on the first line was preceded by light blue uniformed marching band. at the back part was found David star, a Hebrew logo. Then, it is  followed with elementary students who brought Christians banners, such as Elshadai, Adonai, Yehova Rapha, Yehova shalom, Yehova nissi, Yehova shammah, etc. There was also large white flag david star.

…Meanwhile, two of them did not come along to form a cross formation, they distributed souvenir such as key, ring and crown cross rubber ban inscribed “Joel Generation”.

That last detail is suggestive of an American influence, where some neo-Pentecostals talk militaristically of the “Joel Generation” or “Joel’s Army”, a supposed movement of youth that will bring religious revival. Catholic leaders appear wary and keen to keep the peace; Catholic Culture reports:

“The Church’s line is this: not to react on her own to the provocation by radicals, but to always seek ecumenical fellowship and full harmony and cooperation of other religious leaders, starting with Muslims,” adds Father Ignazio Ismartono, SJ, an official of the Indonesian bishops’ conference. “At the root of the matter it seems to me that there is a problem that affects the relationship between Islamic groups and Protestant Christian groups, within their spheres of action and influence … Every religious community not propagate their faith so fanatically. This approach only leads to a reaction of fanaticism in other communities. It’s a vicious circle that we must emerge from.”

Here are the anti-Christian placrards and posters which have appeared in Bekasi

I last blogged on Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia here.

(As ever, I doubt that anyone cares what I think, but just so that I’m not accused of anything: I can understand Ismartono’s wish to keep the peace in a dangerous situation, but people should of course be free to “propagate their faith” as “fanatically” as they wish, so long as they don’t make threats. And even if there really is a “Christianization” going on, Muslim leaders should ponder how to make their own religion more attractive, rather than make threats)