More news from “moderate” Indonesia. From Straits Times, with thanks to Nicolei:
JAKARTA – FEARS of attacks by Islamic militants are forcing some Christians in Indonesia to abandon traditional churches in favour of more discreet and secure venues this Christmas.
With foreign governments warning of holiday terror bombings, thousands of churches in major Indonesian cities will hold services this year in office buildings, hotels and even movie theatres, church leaders say.
‘It puts us at a lower risk of being a target for religious persecution,’ said Pastor Steve Lunn, originally from Seattle, whose International English Service holds services for 1,000 people in a downtown Jakarta office building.
‘People tell me they feel safer,’ he said.
‘The facility itself is not the most important thing. It’s just a place to gather. The most important thing is being together and worshipping God together.’
Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of more than 13,000 islands and 210 million people, is the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
The vast majority of Muslims practise a moderate version of the faith.
Sure they do. That’s why Christians are meeting for Christmas in movie theaters.
And the idea that Christians should have second-class status, a traditional concept of Islamic law, is alive and well there:
But attacks against Christians, who make up just 8 per cent of the population, have become more frequent since ex-dictator Suharto’s downfall in 1998, and amid a global rise in Islamic radicalism. Mr Suharto enforced secularism as part of national security policies….
‘People are still afraid,’ said Pastor Hengki Ompi, whose church was attacked earlier this month by suspected Muslim gunmen on the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
‘We hope the attacks stop so we can celebrate Christmas without fear.’
Plans to build new churches are sometimes met with violent protests from Islamic groups, which view them as an attempt to convert Muslims.
Church leaders also say a decree requiring religious leaders to get neighbourhood approval before building new places of worship is being used to discriminate against them.
Some church leaders say these obstacles are understandable, given the country’s Muslim majority, and acknowledge that Muslims face similar problems in the few pockets of Indonesia where Christians dominate.
But others say the restrictions reflect a growing intolerance of religious minorities.
‘We have a lot more liberties than say Afghanistan and Pakistan…but the fact is that Christians are second-class citizens,’ said Pastor Bill Heckman, a Dutchman who has tried for six years to build a church in Jakarta….
Muslims say evangelical Christians are partly to blame for rising religious tensions.
They say hundreds of foreign-funded evangelical groups are using churches in Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods to convert locals – a claim some Christians acknowledge is true.
In response, the government has proposed a law that would bar Indonesians from attending religious ceremonies that do not reflect their faith – making it harder for them to switch.
It would also criminalise inter-faith marriages and adoptions.