This confirms what I have been hearing from friends in Indonesia in recent years since SBY became president as well as what I have been reading increasingly in the Indonesian press.
Indonesia is a secular state that recognizes several religions, but 85% of its population is Muslim, making it the world's largest Muslim population. For decades, intolerant, radical Islam has been largely convined to Aceh Province, often dubbed by Indonesians as the "Doorstep to Mecca." However, that extremism and intolerance has spread to West Java, traditional among the more sophisiticated and tolerant areas of the country.
Unfortunately, SBY needs the support of Islamist parties and thus seems to be doing little to quell the upsurge in anti-Christian/Buddhist violance. (Other than Bali, which is predominantly Hindu, the largest minority religions are Christianity and Buddhism).
For months, Christians in the industrial city of Bekasi have been warned against worshipping on a field that houses their shuttered church. They've arrived to find human feces dumped on the land and sermons have been interrupted by demonstrators chanting "Infidels!" and "Leave now!"
But last week, tensions finally exploded.
Twenty worshippers were met by 300 Islamic hard-liners, many of whom hurled shoes and water bottles before pushing past a row of riot police. The mob chased down and punched several members of the group.Hard-liners have also become more violent, according to the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, a human rights group, which said there have already been 28 attacks on religious freedom in 2010, including everything from preventing groups from performing prayers to burning houses of worship.In a rare show of force, hundreds of police showed up to protect the Batak Christians on Aug. 8. But they made little effort to stop FPI members as they got increasingly vitriolic.
"The Batak Christians deserve to be stabbed to death," yelled Murhali Barda, who heads the FPI chapter in Bekasi. "If they refuse to go home we are ready to fight."
An argument broke out between Barda and three female members of the congregation. The hard-liners shoved and started punching them. All the while, men chanted from a truck and clerics made speeches saying "Leave. ... We will not let you perform prayers here!"
The crowd, made up largely of children, cheered in response: "God is great!"