ASIA/INDONESIA - A Muslim Study Centre: "To save the churches from radical Islamic groups is possible"

Jakarta (Agenzia Fides) – To save the Christian churches in Indonesia from the influence and attacks on behalf of radical Islamic groups is necessary and possible, according to a new Report published by the "Paramadina Foundation", a Muslim civil society organization engaged in promoting religious tolerance. The research, titled "The controversy over the churches in Greater Jakarta" of which Fides received a copy, sheds light on the factors leading to constructive interreligious relations, analyzing the situations in which Christian churches have not only received permission to build but, once built, have become a factor of enrichment and positive socialization for the whole society.
The Report refers to the known controversy of the Yasmin Church, of the Presbytarian Church, which obtained the building permit in Bogor but, for the opposition of extremist Islamic groups, has not yet been built (see Fides 28/11, 29/9 and 23/7 of 2011). The reference area is the megalopolis Jakarta, made of large suburbs like Bogor and Bekasi, where radical Islamist groups thrive.
The success stories highlighted in the Report - showing 13 cases - identify three crucial factors: the first factor is the support from the local government and police. In the case of "Terang Hidup Church" (always of Christian Presbyterians) in Jakarta, the local police facilitated dialogue between the building committee of the church and groups who opposed.
The second factor is the support from the religious elite. For example, in the case of the church of St Mikael in Bekasi, the building committee of the church had the support of a local Muslim leader, who enjoyed great confidence in the surrounding community. The approach launched and good relations allowed the project to be successful.
The third factor is a broad dialogue with the Muslim community in the area to emphasize that the church "proselytism is not needed towards Muslims, but to ensure that Christians in the area can have a legitimate place of worship". For example, when the church of S. Alberto in Bekasi was under construction, the building commission invited neighboring communities, local government officials and police to a series of meetings. This approach convinced the local community not to hinder the construction of the church.
"These three factors fundamental to preserve good relations between majority and minority religions – explains the Report - should be widely publicized. The scheme also could be applied to the building of mosques in predominantly Christian communities". The text sent to Fides concludes: "The central government should learn from this research on how to mitigate the conflicts caused by the construction of churches and to defend the Indonesian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 09/02/2012)

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