DAILY CATHOLIC MON-TUES December 7-8, 1998 vol. 9, no. 237
NEWS & VIEWS
INDONESIAN MOB BURNS CATHOLIC CHURCH; INDONESIAN BISHOPS FEAR VIOLENCE BEING INSTIGATED
JAKARTA (CWNews.com) - Religious tensions continued to flare into violence on Friday when a mob of Muslim extremists set fire to a Catholic church in the city of Ujung Pandang.
Police spokesmen said the rioting began after Muslim midday prayers when some rioters threw burning materials into the church. No one was seriously injured. The attack was the latest in a series of religion-motivated attacks over the past week in which Muslims and Christians have attacked each others' house of worship, as well as homes and shops.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world, while Christians make up a small minority. Most of the country's wealthy ethnic Chinese minority are Christian, connecting the violence to fears that the poorer majority are being taken advantage of by the richer minority.
Religious tensions have long simmered across Indonesia, but they were kept in check under the harsh, army-backed rule of former president Suharto, whose 32-year reign ended in May. Now with the military discredited over the deaths of pro-democracy protesters and lawlessness rising, these tensions have resurfaced.
The Catholic bishops of Indonesian have condemned these series of attacks on Islamic mosques, which have followed in apparent response to a wave of attacks on Christian churches. Meanwhile, the Fides news agency has reported suspicions that the latest sectarian battles are being deliberately staged in an effort to provoke further unrest in the country.
Government authorities in Jakarta have charged that the attacks on houses of worship were organized "to destroy religious harmony in the region." And Fides quoted an informed source as reporting, "It is untrue to say that Christians and Muslims are fighting each other. I suspect the military."
Acknowledging his charge could not be proven, the Fides source said that the latest round of violence in Indonesia has consisted of "engineered riots, intended to create disturbance and therefore fear among the people, so that the military... can assume its former position."
The recent violence has certainly hit religious targets. On November 22 there were dozens of incidents of arson and vandalism at Catholic and Protestant churches in Jakarta; on November 30, 15 mosques were burned in Kupang. There have been subsequent attacks on churches and mosques in Ngabang, Ujungpandang, and Roti.
The Indonesian bishops condemned the attacks, and called upon the faithful to work for a restoration of peace and harmony. At the same time, the bishops asked the government to "investigate these disorders to verify whether there has been deliberate instigation."
Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta acknowledged that some
Catholics had participated in the attacks on mosques, but added that
"third parties" were also clearly involved. Bishop Johannes
Hadiwikarta, the secretary general of the episcopal conference,
added, "The destruction of a place of prayer of any kind is
intolerable, regardless of the reasons."
Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
NEWS & VIEWS