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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     5  October  2011                    

Christians under siege in Indonesia

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Islamic fundamentalists in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, are attacking Christians with impunity, the head of Indonesian bishops said on Tuesday during a visit to the Vatican.

“Muslim fanatics are staging violence and denying basic religious freedom and stopping the construction of places of worship and the practice of Christianity,” Martinus Dogma Situmorang told the Vatican’s l’Osservatore Romano daily.

“Alas, these incidents are being tolerated or authorities are turning a blind eye without taking any legal action because in their eyes it is less serious even though they were accompanied by violence,” Situmorang said.

Indonesia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion but rights groups say violence against minorities including Christians and the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect has escalated since 2008.

In February, a 1,500-strong mob of Muslims set two churches alight and ransacked a third in the town of Temanggung, on Java island, as they demanded that a Christian man be sentenced to death for insulting Islam.

Situmorang said even if extremists and radicals behind these attacks were brought to justice, the “punishments accorded are not proportionate to their acts.”

He said fanaticism was on the rise but security forces appeared to have got weaker.

More than 80 percent of Indonesia’s estimated 240 million people are Muslim. Five percent are Protestants and 3 percent Catholic.


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