Yogyakarta sees fresh case of religious strife

Yogyakarta sees fresh case of religious strife
A police patrol car is parked outside the Pentecostal Church in Pangukan, Sleman, Yogyakarta, which was ransacked Friday by members of Islamic hard-line groups, who do not want a Christian house of worship in the neighborhood.

Religious intolerance has again surfaced in Yogyakarta, where on June 4, a group of unidentified persons demanded that the Isa Almasih Church in Margoluwih, Ngentak hamlet, Sleman regency, cease holding church services.

"They did not resort to anarchy", church leader Rev. Slamet told The Jakarta Post on Friday at his home in Marguluwih.

"An official statement will be given after a formal meeting with the Inter-Protestant Church Working Agency [BKSGK] of Sleman regency," added Slamet's colleague, who wished to remain anonymous.

Following the incident, two police officers from the Seyegan Police along with three local residents were put on guard at the Isa Alamasih Church, which is located in the middle of a residential area. The church signboard has been removed.

Margoluwih village secretary Agus Wiseso said that after the incident, village officials, together with the police, requested that Slamet cease holding religious services in order to avoid a conflict.

"We took the measure in anticipation of the arrival of several members from outside mass organizations, as happened at the church in Pangukan," said Agus, referring to an incident on June 1, when a group of Pangukan residents, along with members of Muslim hard-line groups, vandalized a Pentecostal Church in Pangukan, Sleman, claiming that it had not secured a permit.

The plot on which the church stands was originally a house owned by a local resident named Murno, who passed the house down to his son, Slamet.

"Slamet then gave the land to a Protestant foundation after [the house] was destroyed by the 2006 earthquake," Agus said.

He added that a multi-purpose hall for the community in Ngentak hamlet was later built on the plot of land, and inaugurated by Ngentak hamlet head Suwardi in 2007. In 2008, however, the hall began holding church services.

"At present, the village authorities have neither secured a building permit nor a permit to construct a house of worship," said Agus. Residents living around the church said the community in Ngentak hamlet did not mind the presence of the church.

The episode is the latest in a string of incidents to have hit Yogyakarta in recent days.

Meanwhile, Elga Sarapung, director of interfaith organization Dian/Interfidei, said that a text message had been circulating in Yogyakarta demanding that Protestant churches stop conducting religious services.

"I believe this is a form of provocation and intimidation, as a number of church congregations are really scared," said Elga, adding that she had met with Thoha Abdurrahman, head of the Yogyakarta chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) on Friday to discuss the issue.

"Pak Thoha's response was positive. He plans to bring all the Islamic organizations together in Yogyakarta [to settle the issue]," Elsa said.

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