More on this story. This time, there is a welcome bit of stronger language from the Indonesian president, which is a departure from his remarks following an incident where Christians who were denied permission to use a building as a church were then also harassed and beaten for trying to worship in an empty field.
Yudhoyono’s comments made that incident sound like little more than homeowner’s association dispute. Indeed, his track record, as described below, suggests he is still more alarmed at the immediate prospect of instability and the challenge to public order posed by these rampages than broader principles of genuine equality and freedom of conscience.
“Indonesia police guard churches amid wave of hate,” from Agence France-Presse, February 9 (thanks to Twostellas):
Indonesian police stood guard outside churches on Wednesday after a wave of religious hate crimes swept the mainly Muslim country, shocking civil society and sparking international concern.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been criticised for failing to stem the violence, ordered the police and military to go “all-out” against extremist groups behind the unrest.
“Every person should be guaranteed protection and safety, whatever his faith, ethnicity, race, political affiliation or profession,” he said.
“Democracy does not mean the law of the jungle.”
Indonesia’s image as a bastion of inter-faith harmony has been battered in recent months by violent Islamic extremism and marauding vigilante groups.
All it seems to be anymore is an article of politically correct faith, as if repeating often enough that Indonesia is modern, moderate, and tolerant will make it so.
The wave of hate crimes targeting Christians and other minorities climaxed on Sunday when hundreds of enraged Muslims brutally murdered three followers of a heterodox Islamic sect in front of police, who did little to intervene.
The country was still reeling over a disturbing video of the lynching when another crowd of Muslims rampaged through the streets of Temanggung, Central Java, on Tuesday.
This time police responded with tear gas but again failed to stop the mob setting fire to two churches and vandalising a Catholic school, as they demanded the execution of a Christian who had been jailed for insulting Islam.
Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini described the incident as a “very serious demonstration of anti-Christian fanaticism”.
US ambassador Scot Marciel said the United States “joins the vast majority of Indonesians in deploring the violence” against the Ahmadiyah sect, and noted “with concern” the church burnings in Central Java.
Central Java provincial police spokesman Djihartono said almost 1,200 extra security personnel including troops had been deployed in Temanggung in response to Tuesday’s unrest.
Police said heavy security would also be in force at a Jakarta courtroom where radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is due to stand trial on terrorism charges on Thursday. Hundreds of his supporters are expected to attend.
Mr Yudhoyono said police must act with “courage” to disband – “if necessary” – any extremist outfit found to have “clearly caused casualties”.
Human rights organisations have criticised Mr Yudhoyono for failing to confront the sources of rising intolerance in the country of 240 million people, 80 per cent of whom are Muslims.
He has not censured ministers or police who justify the violence, or reviewed legislation which activists say facilitates discrimination, such as the 1965 blasphemy law or a 2008 decree restricting the Ahmadiyah.