RELIGIOUS FEARS RISE IN INDONESIA
SMH, Wednesday, 2 December 1992, Page 15
News and Features
JAKARTA, Tuesday: Tension between Indonesias huge Muslim population, the worlds largest, and its wealthy Christian minority appears to be on the increase with reports of another attack on a church at the weekend. In a related development, troops took up positions outside several schools in Jakarta yesterday to contain growing violence between students. Church sources said some of this violence was linked to religious differences.
The head of the countrys biggest Muslim organisation said today that the church attacks were being instigated by other Islamic groups, including more extreme members of the Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals, set up by President Soeharto two years ago.
There are some dirty hands behind it ... groups trying to emphasise the incorrect attitude of Christianity, Mr Abdurrahman Wahid, a moderate who heads the 40 million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama, said. Mr Abdurrahman said he had urged members to calm down and to ignore anti-Christian documents being spread around the country. The relationship is getting worse, said one leading Roman Catholic priest, who asked not to be identified.
Churches have been attacked in several parts of the country and the priest said he had been told by youths yesterday in Jakarta of one which was quickly broken up by police and troops.
Indonesia has more than 160 million Muslims but President Soehartos 27-year-old Government has always crushed any attempts to turn the country into an Islamic State.
The Government prides itself on the countrys religious tolerance and while State ideology demands belief in God, the choice of religion is left to the individual.
It could be explosive, the priest said of the attacks. He pointed to the use in the capital of troops to keep a lid on increasing numbers of student brawls, some of which had pitted Muslim and Christian youths against each other.
It is the security approach, but we have to heal the real cause which is mutual suspicion, he said.
Soldiers stood outside a number of Jakarta high schools yesterday, armed with guns and rubber sticks.
If we let the brawls go on, it will create social unrest ... Actually its not timely to deploy troops, but before it goes too far its better to prevent it, the Jakarta military commander, Major General Kentot Harseno, was quoted as saying by the armed forces daily newspaper, Angkatan Bersenjata.
At least nine students have died in more than 100 brawls in the past 11 months and 135 students have been arrested.
There has been a spate of church attacks in predominately Muslim east Java which political analysts say seem to have started from an internal document at a Pentecostal church on the merits of Christianity over Islam. Last week, the armed forces commander, General Try Sutrisno, appealed to all sides for harmony and warned he would stop any more trouble. Some analysts say the violence has been partly sparked by the circulation of video tapes showing atrocities against Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They give anti-Christian speeches before showing the videos and of course peoples emotions are raised, Mr Abdurrahman said. But I think we can control the situation.
Although only about 6 per cent of Indonesians are Christian, they dominate
the private sector economy, especially the ethnic-Chinese, who through much of Indonesian history have been the occasional target of racial violence.
CAPTION: Port: President Soeharto ... government proud of religious tolerance.