Three churches burned in Indonesia
The incidents took place simultaneously, starting with two houses in Pasarbaru Pangean and Logas Tanah Darat villages around midnight on Aug. 1.
The next day at around 11 p.m. local time, a mob marched to Sungai Langsat hamlet in Pasarbaru Pangean village and set fire to a house also believed to be used as a church. The timber structure quickly collapsed under the flames.
Sungai Langsat villagers said the house was used by the GMI Christian congregation to hold services. They claimed 15 people worshipped at the house every weekend.
Other residents claimed they felt violated after learning that the house was used as a place of worship without relevant permits from the authorities.
The police, who did not respond to the first two incidents of arson, claimed they were in control of the situation and that there were no casualties.
Kuantan Sengingi Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ristiawan Bulkhaini said 21 people who knew of and witnessed the attacks were questioned, but no suspects have been named.
“Based on information we gathered, the houses were used for religious gatherings. However, the congregation grew rapidly so the homes were turned into houses of worship, thus raising complaints from other locals,” Ristiawan said Thursday.
He called on the Christian congregations to move their religious activities to locations permitted by the local administration and religious affairs agency.
“The act of people taking the law into their own hands cannot be tolerated because violence will not resolve the issue. The case will be investigated thoroughly before it spreads to other areas,” he added.
In Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), interfaith youth leaders agreed Thursday to maintain religious tolerance in West Timor by running campaigns for nonviolence.
The signing of the joint agreement was attended by representatives of the GMI Church in Timor (GMIT), the Christian Church Communication Forum, Kupang Grand Diocese Catholic Youth, Madaris Institute, Islamic Students Association (HMI), Hindu Dharma Indonesia and a number of other groups.
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