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Indonesian religious strife includes damage, threats to Baptist churches

WASHINGTON (BP)–Rioters in Jakarta, Indonesia, threw stones and damaged the windows of the Baptist church in Grogol, burned a car belonging to the church and beat up a church guard in the Nov. 22 rioting in which 13 churches were damaged and burned and at least six people were killed.
Additional news from the Grogol church, however, was not available Nov. 24.
Baptist leaders from Indonesia who sent a report to the Baptist World Alliance meanwhile described terrifying encounters with the rioters who twice approached Calvary Baptist Church in Jakarta and the offices of the Union of Indonesian Baptist Churches.
According to the leaders, the mob approached the church in downtown Jakarta and said they came to burn it. They told the Baptist leaders that two Muslim leaders had died that day and they were there to avenge that death. Earlier that afternoon, they had damaged a Pentecostal church nearby and burned two church cars.
Guards, people who live in the area and other church leaders who were guarding the building persuaded them to leave. When they returned later that evening, military personnel who by this time were guarding the church and nearby union offices dispersed the crowd.
“It was just like war,” one leader said, “We did not dare stay inside our homes. We turned off all the lights in the homes and went outside and it was pitch dark. We also took down all of the signs that identified the church, school and office buildings.”
“Please pray for us,” said one Indonesian Baptist leader. “We do not know what will happen to our country.”
According to another source, the religious rioting is not being done by students but by “the average person in the street,” who has been hit the hardest by the downturn in Indonesia’s economic fortunes. Since many of the businesses are run by Christians, and these are usually wealthier ethnic Chinese, this has sparked a backlash against them by the mostly Muslim Indonesians.
Last May, BWA leaders held meetings at Calvary Baptist Church on the day the student uprising began which led to the fall of President Suharto. Just after the BWA team left the hotel across from the church where they stayed, rioters threw stones and damaged the hotel windows. Military guards then protected the hotel.
Denton Lotz, general secretary of the BWA said, “Tragic and false rumors have caused hysterical reactions among uninformed youth. Let us pray for our Baptist brothers and sisters who in patience and love seek full religious freedom. Worldwide Baptists must make known their concern for religious tolerance and peace to their government leaders. We send our love and prayers to those of our members suffering in Jesus’ name.”

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  • Wendy Ryan