Shhh! Do not speak of this! Remember: “Talk about extreme, militant Islamists and the atrocities that they have perpetrated globally might undercut the positive achievements that we Catholics have attained in our inter-religious dialogue with devout Muslims and possibly generate suspicion and even fear of people who practice piously the religion of Islam.” — Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – One person was killed, four were wounded and a church burned down in sectarian clashes yesterday in the district of Singkil, Aceh province, western Indonesia, the most “Islamic” of the world’s most populous Muslim nation and dubbed “The door to Mecca.”
Local witnesses report that hundreds of Muslims attacked a first place of Christian worship because “illegal” (without the required building permit), setting it on fire. Later, the crowd moved on to a second church, resulting in violent clashes that killed one person and injured several others.
A few weeks ago there was an increase of tension in Aceh, in the context of increasing pressure from local Islamic fundamentalist fringe. Last week a group of protesters held a demonstration demanding the demolition of what they call “unlicensed churches”.
In response, the local government consented to demolishing but delayed “too long” causing resentment among extremist movements. There are at least 10 Christians places of worship considered “irregular” because they do not have the infamous IMB (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan, the construction permit); the beginning of the demolition was scheduled for October 19 and would end in two weeks. The Churches that have been spared – 14 in all – have been given six months to regularize their position.
Husein Hamidi, chief of police in Aceh, reports that “after burning the church, the crowd – made up mostly of members of the Muslim Youth Forum – tried to attack another but ran into opposition from Christians.” Following clashes between extremists and the villagers of Dangguran (sub-district of Gunung Meriah), adds the official, “a man was killed when he was shot in the head” and four others were wounded.
According to sources, the police made several arrests, but there is currently no official confirmation; Meanwhile calm has returned to the district – a Christian enclave in an overwhelmingly Muslim majority nation – although tension could return in the coming days 10 other “illegal churches” will be demolished. Some Christian families have already fled, fearing an escalation of violence….