Indonesian Church slams funeral cross desecration

Muslims force Catholic family to cut top off burial cross before allowing burial in public cemetery
Indonesian Church slams funeral cross desecration

The upper part of Albertus Slamet Sugihardi's burial cross was chopped as a result of protests by Muslims before his body was allowed to be buried in a public cemetery in Yogyakarta. (Photo supplied)

Indonesian Church leaders have strongly condemned a requirement that resulted in the removal of the upper part of a burial cross for a dead Catholic before he could be buried in a public cemetery in Yogyakarta.

The stipulation was a result of protests against the cross from Muslims.

Semarang Archdiocese condemned the incident in a Dec. 19 statement, calling it "a violation of the constitution that contradicts the state's ideology of Pancasilawhich respects diversity.

The case has gone viral on social media and sparked outrage among Catholics and rights activists.

The row centered around the burial of Albertus Slamet Sugihardi, a parishioner of St. Paul Church in Pringgolayan, Yogyakarta.

According to Semarang Archdiocese' Commission for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, the upper part of Sugihardi's burial cross was cut off before he was allowed to be buried on Dec. 17 because Muslim groups claimed the cemetery was a special one for Muslims.

Muslim groups claimed the cross cutting was carried out with the approval of the dead man's family.

However, the commission said Sugihardi's wife was forced to sign an approval letter drafted by local officials after the event took place in a bid to calm the storm that broke after the incident was reported on social media. 

Agus Sumartoyo, head of the commission's investigative team said, "the duty of the apparatus is to protect those who are weak and not to pressure them so they budge to create pseudo harmony."

Agustinus Sunarto, a local activist, also accused local residents of preventing a wake being held at Sugihardi's home. Instead, prayers had to be said in the parish church.

Soleh Rahmad Hidayat, a local community leader, said the impromptu ban on Christian symbols was demanded by residents, who wanted to make the cemetery exclusive for Muslims.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Bishops' Commission for the Laity called the affair another example of "growing and deepening religious intolerance" in Indonesia.

"The government needs to address the issue immediately, before it spirals out of control," he told ucanews.com

"All people must respect other religious symbols, such as the cross," he added.

Alissa Wahid, national coordinator of the Gusdurian Network, a freedom of religion group, said the incident demonstrated that majoritarianism was gaining strength in Indonesia.

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In this case "the majority [Muslims] feel that they are the ones to determine everything and the minority must respect them," she said.

Interior Minister, Tjahjo Kumolo, has ordered the local authorities to immediately rectify matters.

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