Parish provides basic necessities and free medical check-ups to people in need. The extremists have been trying to prevent this initiative in areas where most residents are Muslim. Ominous protest rallies and blockades are held in Banguntapan and Jaranan. For a Catholic lawyer, this is “public persecution".
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Groups of hard-line Muslims have been protesting the charity work of St Paul's Pringgolayan, a Catholic community in Banguntapan, a suburb of Yogyakarta (Central Java), claiming that they are engaged in “covert proselytising”. The charitable work is intended to mark the construction of a church for a new parish in Bantul Regency.
On 27 December, Mgr Robertus Rubiyatmoko, archbishop of Semarang, led the ceremony marking the establishment of the newly ecclesiastical circumscription (picture 2).
The Catholic presence in the village on the outskirts of Yogyakarta dates back to 1974. At that time, a priest from the central parish of St. Joseph's Bintaran would celebrate Mass in the homes of the faithful, people like Mr Sukirdjo and Francis Xavier Sardjono.
In 1979, with the full support of the late Card Justinus Darmojuwono, then archbishop of Semarang, the administrator of the Bintaran church bought land.
Between 1980 and 1983, the Catholic community engaged in a major fundraising drive that led to the construction of a first modest chapel, which was inaugurated on 25 January 1986.
Plan to expand the compound were slowed down by a major earthquake that hit the Yogyakarta area in 2006.
In the following years, work resumed and last December the local community saw the birth of its parish (picture 3-4).
To mark the event, Catholics in Banguntapan under took various charity initiatives for surrounding villages.
These activities, which embody the Church’s commitment to and compassion for the most unfortunate among local residents, consist of the gift of basic necessities and free medical check-ups.
However, this was met with the firm opposition by some hard-line Muslim groups who do not want Catholics to be involved in areas where the majority of the population is Muslim.
Last Sunday, Muslim extremists organised protests in Banguntapan (picture 1) to exclude Catholics from the locations where the latter had planned to carry out their initiatives. Ominous gatherings were also held in Jaranan, where other beneficial projects had been planned.
Islamic extremists accuse Catholics of carrying out "covert operations" to proselytise in Muslim villages. The local Islamist group Darrohman, which belongs to the Front Jihad Islam (FJI), told Catholics to do their charity works in the parish compound, not in residential areas.
In order to ease tensions, St Paul’s parish priest, Fr. Ariawan, was forced to cancel all the initiatives.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the Bhinneka Tunggal Ika Lawyer Association in Yogyakarta slammed Islamist action, defining the incidents as "public persecution" against Indonesian citizens, based on "false assumptions".
"The persecution is a serious crime that leads to bullying, sorrow and concern among people,” said Agnes Dwi Rusjiyati, a Catholic lawyer and president of the association. “What is more, it constitutes a serious violation of international law."
"The demonstrators have no evidence to support their accusations of proselytising, which are groundless," concluded the lawyer, who calls on the authorities to prosecute anyone who took part in the violence.
Fr Karl-Edmund Prier, a German-born Jesuit, suffered injuries to his back, head and hands. Catholics are urged not to spread panic and tensions via social media. For experts, extremist groups are preparing for upcoming elections by causing ethnic and religious polarisation.
Local elections are set for Wednesday. Some associations call for a “choice based on the interest of [. . .] the nation,” and the defence of a pluralistic state.