Muslim group rejects help from Indonesian Catholics

Parishioners forced to give up aid work after being accused of using social work trying to convert people
Muslim group rejects help from Indonesian Catholics

Parishioners and Muslims pose for a photo after settling a dispute involving social work by Catholic parishioners among Muslim communities in Yogyakarta. (Photo supplied)

Catholics from an Indonesian parish have been forced to halt social work to help the needy after being accused by Muslims of proselytization.

Parishioners at St. Paul Church in Bantul district in Yogyakarta had been distributing aid packages containing basic necessities and free health care to local people — mostly Muslims — in a local village as part of a series of programs to celebrate the elevation of their church, from a mission station to a parish. 

Their plans were thwarted as a result of opposition from local Muslims, a group of whom confronted them on Jan. 28 and accused the Catholics of attempting to convert local people.

The group's spokesman called Darrohman claimed similar programs in other areas had resulted in a decrease in Muslim numbers due to proselytization.

He said any church social work should be carried out in the compound of the church itself and that Catholics should not go among Muslim communities.

Organizers denied the social work was designed to convert people.

"There was no proselytization. The social work was supposed to purely help local villagers," Agustinus Edi Nugroho, coordinator of the program, told on Feb. 1.  

"We canceled the program as it could create conflict," he said after police brokered talks to settle the dispute. 

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