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Indonesian bishops condemn attack on Buddhist temples

Complaint by Chinese man over call to prayer noise sparks violent backlash
Indonesian bishops condemn attack on Buddhist temples

Indonesian Muslim hardliners burn an effigy of a Buddhist during a protest in Jakarta in May 2015. A Muslim mob attacked 10 Buddhist temples in North Sumatra July 29-30 after a Chinese man allegedly complained about the noise by a Muslim call to prayer. (Photo by AFP)                                                              

Published: August 02, 2016 06:42 AM GMT
Updated: August 02, 2016 06:45 AM GMT

Indonesian bishops have condemned a series of attacks on Buddhist temples by a Muslim mob in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, over the weekend, saying that it has damaged religious harmony.

They also called on for the perpetrators who reportedly destroyed ten temples in raids late on July 29 and early July 30 to be brought to justice.

The raids began after a member of the Chinese community, who are mostly Buddhist, allegedly complained that a local mosque’s call to prayer was too loud angering locals in the Muslim-majority country.

Dozens have since been arrested, including some perpetrators and also looters who took advantage of the situation.

Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta, chairman of Indonesian bishops’ conference said the attacks hurt the brotherhood of religious believers and the entire nation.

"All parties must learn from this case and hope for something better for the sake of our nation, our well-being and our belief in one God and humanity," Archbishop Suharyo said.

Meanwhile, Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, executive secretary of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace called on police to apprehend and punish all who were behind the attacks.

Some suspects were still at large.

"This happens again and again because provocateurs of intolerant actions are not punished accordingly," said Father Susetyo.

People were provoked through social media to attack the temples, even though they did not really know what was actually said by the Chinese man, he said.

"The police must also regulate the use of social media," he said. "People do not use social media to develop their capacity [for humanity] but to spread rumors."

North Sumatra Police spokeswoman Rina Sari Ginting told ucanews.com Aug. 1 that more than 30 people have been questioned, 17 of whom were suspects.

"Nine were linked to the destruction of temples, while eight are suspected looters,” she said.

According to Ginting, the situation has now returned to normal.

National Police Chief, Tito Karnavian who visited Tanjung Balai on July 30, called on people not to be easily provoked by trivial broadcasts on social media, particularly to attack places of worship.

He told reporters that police and the Ministry of Communication would monitor Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites to curb the spread of intolerance and hatred.

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