Bekasi, Indonesia: threat level rises

One pastor is stabbed while another is beaten

Elizabeth Kendal

AUSTRALIA -- Bekasi regency on the eastern outskirts of Jakarta is 98 percent Muslim and a fundamentalist stronghold. Recent economic development coupled with an influx of non-Javanese workers is making Bekasi more ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse. Consequently, Bekasi's Islamic fundamentalists are demanding Sharia (Islamic) Law be implemented, specifically to 'limit apostasy'. (Sharia law mandates death for apostasy and bans 'fitna' i.e. anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim.) On Sunday 27 June, Bekasi's Islamic leaders made a public appeal for all Bekasi Muslims to prepare for jihad. Demanding an end to the 'Christianisation' of Bekasi, they warned that if talks with the churches fail, then jihad would commence. They recommended that in the meantime, all Bekasi mosques establish and train their own paramilitary units ('laskars') in readiness. (See: RLPB 062, June update).

Subsequently on 3 July, as one Bekasi mosque trained some 100 mujahedeen in the open air, another one erected an enormous banner calling for the death of a local Protestant pastor, picturing him with his head in a flaming noose. Indonesian MP Eva Kusuma Sundari claimed to have information implicating the TNI (Indonesian military) as complicit in violence perpetrated by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). (See: RLPB 063, 7 July.)


For some 15 years the authorities have refused Bekasi's 1500-strong Batak Christian Protestant Church permission to build a worship centre. Recently the church was told they are not even allowed to worship together in their homes as this would violate new local bi-laws. Commencing Sunday 31 July, a core group of members started meeting for prayer and worship in the open air on the church's own land. Each Sunday the small group sings hymns, prays and hears the word while Muslim fundamentalists hurl insults and abuse, shoes and other objects across a police barricade. On Sunday 8 Aug, some 300 Islamic militants pushed through the police lines and beat the Christians as they attempted to flee. Several believers required hospitalisation. (See: RLPB 068, 11 Aug.)


The following Sunday, 15 Aug, some 1200 representatives of religious minorities rallied in Jakarta to protest government inaction in the face of escalating Islamic intolerance and violence. (See: RLPB 070, Aug Update.) Amongst the churches, Bekasi's Batak Christian Pr otestant Church has come to embody the struggle and so has received the most media attention. However, it is actually only one of numerous churches being repressed and persecuted in West Java.

For more background with further detail see:
Religious Liberty Monitoring:


On Sunday 12 Sept, as Reverend Sihombing -- an elder at Bekasi's Batak Christian Protestant Church -- walked toward the church's land, he was ambushed by Islamic militants. When the Reverend Luspida Simanjuntak rushed to his aid, she was clubbed on her face, head and back.

Both pastors have been hospitalised. Rev Sihombing is in a critical condition in intensive care suffering multiple stab wounds to the abdomen. It was reported on Monday that the attackers had been identified and that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) had denouncing the violence and was appealing for justice.


By Wednesday, nine suspects had been arrested (at least two others are evading police). Police have told reporters that, despite all suspicions to the contrary, they do not believe the motive was religious, or that the attack was necessarily pre-meditated, or that any of the attackers belonged to any 'mass organisation'.Meanwhile President SBY told reporters that the stabbing occurred because the Christians had chosen an in appropriate place to worship, adding that he sees the problem as a difficult one.


President SBY's political alliances leave him dependent on the support of Islamic parties in the parliament. As such, he will doubtless want the Islamists appeased, which would only further elevate the threat level for Christians. The case must be watched. For right across the Muslim world the trend is for 'reconciliation' (i.e. kiss and make up; Christians accept responsibility and drop all charges in exchange for 'peace'); or whitewashing and scapegoating (i.e. deny religious motive and find some low-risk individual/s to blame and/or punish for the crime). Through these means Sharia may be upheld, Islamisation may be advanced, and dhimmitude (subjugation of non-Muslims) may be established, all behind a facade of fake civility. These are watershed days for Indonesia.



- move President Yudhoyono to make a bold stand in support of justice and Indonesia's constitut ional pluralism and religious liberty. 'The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.' (Proverbs 21:1 NIV)

- use the evil and hatred inherent in this violence to shock many Muslims, awakening them to the inflexible religious totalitarianism of Islam. And may God's intervention ensure that this persecution produces the opposite of what was intended. (See Isaiah 35:5-7)

- bring peace, comfort, healing and strength to the Reverends Sihombing and Simanjuntak; to their ethnic-Batak congregation in Bekasi; and to all West Java's repressed and persecuted churches.





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