Batak Society Christian Church of Philadelphia members hold a Sunday service in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on May 6 (Photo by Ryan Dagur)
A leader of the Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) of Philadelphia in West Java has urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take action against religious intolerance after radical Muslims were accused of throwing stones and urine at a church congregation.
Reverend Palti Panjaitan said almost 100 Protestants were subjected to hate speeches and murder threats on Thursday during a service to celebrate Ascension Day at a half-built church in Bekasi district.
More than 400 police and military personnel deployed to secure the service had asked church-goers to worship at a government-designated building 10 kilometers from the site to avoid a standoff with a crowd of 300 Muslim protestors.
“That was the time when the group threw stones, bags of urine and ditchwater at us,” said Rev Panjaitan, adding that the congregation had to halt the service because of the incident.
He warned the authorities that hatred between religious communities would escalate “if such religious intolerance is not resolved immediately.”
Rev Andreas Anangguru Yewangoe, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, accused President Yudhoyono of failing to address the problem.
“It is inhumane. We are tired of facing such incidents,” he said. “If we want this state to be united, the only way is to maintain religious freedom.”
HKBP Philadelphia has been waiting for five years to gain permission to build a church in Bekasi district after submitting an application in 2007.
In December 2009, the district administration issued a letter banning congregations from worshiping on the site but in July last year the Supreme Court overruled the decision, saying the church was eligible for a permit.
HKBP Philadelphia says this has still not been issued, however.
Group warns of threat to charter