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Islam Defenders Front Stops Catholics´ Rosary Prayer


October 19 2005

With shouts of "Allahu akbar" (Allah is great) and "Kristenisasi" (Christianization), more than 100 men dressed in white stormed a house, demanding the Catholics inside stop praying the rosary.

Ignatius Mulyadika, head of the Rosary II "lingkungan" (neighborhood community) of Christ the Salvator Parish in Slipi, West Jakarta, says the violent protesters on Oct. 11 claimed to be members of Islam Defenders Front (FPI, Indonesian acronym).

"About 8 p.m. we heard shouts of ´Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar! Kristenisasi! Kristenisasi! Stop it!" Mulyadika told UCA News Oct. 17. The men hit the side of the house with clubs and threatened to set it on fire if the Catholics continued praying, he recounted.

"My community was in panic. I decided to go out to meet the attackers," he continued. He said the attackers demanded that he sign a statement promising not to hold any more religious services at the house. They then left the house with the statement signed by Mulyadika.

The statement requesting that religious activities stop also was signed, he noted, by other people including the head of the local neighborhood unit where the house is located and Ustadz Soudry, the FPI head in the area. "Ustadz" is a title given to an Islamic religious leader.

A couple of hours earlier, Mulyadika said, the Slipi parish pastoral council had established a team to provide information about their prayer activities to Muslims in the community and to meet with Ustadz Soudry in the near future.

For the meeting with the FPI leader, he added, the team would be accompanied by Ustadz Abdul Goni, with whom he said local Catholics had established a good relationship. A meeting between the parish representatives and Ustadz Soudry was scheduled for Oct. 19 but has been moved back, with no date was given.

In line with the agreement Mulyadika signed, Immaculate Heart of Mary Father Kaitanus Saleky, parish priest of Christ the Salvator, told UCA News he has asked local Catholics to temporarily halt the prayers to avoid a more serious incident.

Meanwhile, he added, the Church would approach other residents to develop mutual understanding. "We will try to meet the local Muslims and make them aware that the prayer is not associated with proselytism," he stated.

He wondered why Catholics who he described as having close ties with their Muslim neighbors would be attacked. The priest added that he is trying to calm down members of the parish. "The owner of the attacked house is still in shock," he said.

Though disappointed by the attack that forced Catholics to stop the rosary prayers customarily held in May and October, he expressed hope that the Church´s approach of seeking accommodation and dialogue would eventually allow Catholics in the area to resume prayers without harassment.