Church Burnings in Indonesia

The Christian Century, November 20, 1996 | Go to article overview

Church Burnings in Indonesia


In a recent letter to Indonesia's President General Suharto, Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, stated that the LWF is "concerned about the increasing hostility and violence perpetrated against members of Christian churches and Christian institutions and buildings" in Indonesia. The letter came in the wake of a series of church burnings in which at least five people died.

In East Java on October 10, 20 churches, Protestant and Roman Catholic, in six towns were set alight or vandalized. Pentecostal pastor Ishak Christian, his wife, their daughter and niece, and a church worker were burned to death in one of the churches. Forty people were arrested on charges related to the violence. According to press reports, certain Muslim groups were responsible for the occurrences. However, several mainstream Muslim leaders condemned the church burnings.

The Straits Times, published in Singapore, reported that Muslim and Christian leaders in Indonesia have pledged to rebuild churches burned and damaged during the rioting in the East Java town of Situbondo. The newspaper quoted Abdurachman Wahid, chairman of the 30-million-member Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's biggest Muslim organization, as saying he intended to spearhead the rebuilding effort as a "symbolic and necessary step to prevent the possibility of people's anger being ignited again." The authorities in Situbondo have also announced that Christians would be permitted to use a government building in the town for their church services. …

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