Many analysts are warning that the situation in Bekasi, West Java, threatens to deteriorate into religious war similar to that which convulsed Central Sulawesi and Maluku between January 1999 and February 2002. It must be noted though that those conflicts occurred on Indonesia's periphery where the Muslim-Christian demographic is around 50-50. If war/jihad against Christians erupts in Bekasi, which is 98 percent Muslim and only 15km east of Jakarta in densely populated West Java, it will be a totally different scenario altogether. This is a most serious situation. Tensions are rising and preparations are in motion. All it awaits is a trigger.
As noted in my post of 30 June 2010, Fitna and Apostaphobia in Bekasi, on Sunday 27 June Islamic fundamentalist leaders at the Bekasi Islamic Congress demanded the city administration of Bekasi, West Java, enact Sharia (Islamic) laws so as to 'limit' apostasy. They also proposed that every mosque in Bekasi establish its own paramilitary unit ('laskar') that can be quickly mobilised for war against Christians if "Christianisation" is not halted in line with Muslim demands.
Like the Laskar Jihad before it, the Islamic Defenders Front reportedly has TNI (Indonesian military) support.
On Monday 28 June, militants belonging to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) raided a restaurant in Banyuwangi, East Java, where legislators were running a health bill familiarisation program. FPI secretary general, Awit Mashuri, defended the FPI's actions, telling TVOne that the FPI is not a law unto itself and always "coordinates" with state apparatus before taking any action. According to Awit, on this occasion the FPI's intelligence came from a "district military intelligence unit". The FPI claimed the raid was necessary to destroy an illegal meeting of "Communists".
See: FPI admits military’s role in Bayuwangi raid
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Friday 2 July 2010.
Outraged Indonesian legislators called for the FPI to be banned. However, others simply recommended rule of law, noting that if the FPI is banned other groups will just emerge in its place. The legislators demanded that police, with strong support from the president, must act decisively to apprehend all lawbreakers. Furthermore, full investigations must be conducted in the event of any militia-related attacks, and the investigations must be kept open to the public. They also recommended that any politicians or businessmen found orchestrating these attacks must face punishment.
This issue, of whether or not the government is prepared to enforce the law in the face of rising Islamic fundamentalism, belligerence and "talibanisation", is the watershed issue on which the future of Indonesia balances.
According to Eva Kusuma Sundari, an Indonesian MP with the Democratic Party of Struggle, "There is information saying the FPI is a pet of the TNI [Indonesian military], and the police hesitate to deal face-to-face with the military, because police consider the armed forces their elder brother"' Of course the Defence Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. I Wayan Midhio denied the allegation, maintaining that all TNI were "professional soldiers who obey the law".
Eva Kusuma Sundari has also learned that the FPI was registered and listed as a "mass organisation" in 2006 under Home Ministry Decree No. 69/ D111.3/VIII/2006, so it cannot be banned without an appeal to the Supreme Court. "This means the ministry also has blood on their hands," she said.
See: Legislator: FPI has the military backing
By Hans David Tampubolon and Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, 30 June 2010
Muslim militias prepare for war
Associated Press reports that on Saturday 3 July some 100 jihadist recruits turned out for an inaugural military training exercise in an open field in Bekasi. "We're doing this because we want to strike fear in the hearts of Christians who behave in such a way," said Murhali Barda, who heads the local chapter of the Islamic Defenders Front, which pushes for the implementation of Islamic-based laws in Bekasi and other parts of the archipelagic nation. "If they refuse to stop what they're doing, we're ready to fight."
One Bekasi mosque has erected an enormous banner that reads "Death penalty for Andreas Dusly Sanau . . ." and pictures the young local Protestant pastor with his head in a flaming noose.
"The government must protect all citizens from anarchist action as mandated by the constitution," said Priest Andreas Yewangoe, a chairman of the Communion of Indonesian Churches told the Associated Press.
But the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is reluctant to act against the Islamic fundamentalists because it is dependent upon the support of Islamic parties in the parliament. With the Islamic parties holding the balance of power, nobody, especially the ruling party, can afford to be deemed "un-Islamic".
"I really see this as a threat to democracy," said Arbi Sanit, a political analyst analyst at the University of Indonesia. "Being popular is more important to them [politicians] than punishing those who are clearly breaking the law."
Catholic news agency Fides agrees: "Radicals of the FPI ('Front Pembela Islam,' Islamic Defense Front), are exploiting the fact that the weak, corruption-wracked central government is dependent upon Muslim support and fearful of Islamic belligerence."
Fr. Emmanuel Harja, priest of the Diocese of Jakarta and Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Indonesia told Fides: "It's often violent militants who openly encourage hostility against all Christians. We ask the government to stop them and ensure freedom of religion and faith in all religious communities. It's a matter of justice and respect for fundamental rights."
Blaming Protestant "fanatics"
Jesuit Fr. Ignazio Ismartono is the director of the Indonesian Bishops' Crisis Reconciliation Service Conference told Fides: "The Church's line is this: not to react on her own to the provocation by radicals, but to always seek ecumenical fellowship and full harmony and cooperation of other religious leaders, starting with Muslims. . ."
However, according to Fr. Ismartono -- who, in 2007, Fides described as "the vice president of the Bishops' Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and a tireless builder of Muslim-Christian relations" -- the root cause of the problem is "the relationship between Islamic groups and Protestant Christian groups, within their spheres of action and influence. At the basis of it is the question of human relationships and respect for others. Every religious community should not propagate their faith so fanatically. This approach only leads to a reaction of fanaticism in other communities. It's a vicious circle that we must emerge from. Today, the important thing is to let tensions cool down and hope that through common sense, everything can get back on the track of peaceful coexistence."
Fr Ismartono is doubtless trying to distance the Catholic Church from the Protestants with whom the Islamic fundamentalists have taken issue. But what is he saying exactly? This seductive, fine-sounding statement deserves closer scrutiny.
Firstly he is saying that we must accept that religions have established (albeit unspoken and unofficial) "spheres of action and influence". According to Islam, Christians have no right to witness to Muslims, for once a person is officially recognised as Muslim they belong to Islam's sphere of influence and have no automatic right to hear any other truth claim or choose their own religion (i.e. no religious liberty). Meanwhile, the scriptures say: "And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV) It appears that the Bishop has adopted the Islamic model.
Concerning Fr Ismartono's implication that Christian should have respect for "others", we can only assume that he asking the Protestants to respect the demands of the apostaphobic dictators of Islam. Of course Christ's ambassadors are motivated by respect. It is this respect, indeed compassionate love, for Indonesia's lost Muslim masses -- many of whom who have worldviews more aligned to Christianity than Islam to start with -- that compels these Protestants to share the gospel of grace despite the risks (2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2).
If Fr Ismartono is going to accuse the Protestants -- who are now threatened with death by jihad -- of "fanatic" propagation of their faith, and blame the crisis on them, then he might need to define "fanatic" and furnish us with some examples as evidence that this "fanaticism" actually exists as a serious problem. I would suggest that Fr Ismartono's definition of a "fanatic" might turn out to be someone who is resisting dhimmitude (subjugation under Islam) and persisting in Christian freedom in the face of Islamic totalitarianism.
Fr Ismartono also implied that the Muslim fanaticism that is threatening to shed Christian blood in Bekasi is only a reaction to Protestant fanaticism with the gospel. The reality however, is that the Islamic fanaticism surfacing in Bekasi is merely part of the global revival of intolerant, jihadist and revolutionary, fundamentalist Islam.
Fr Ismartono needs to explain how then should Christians live? What should Christians do so as to enable "peaceful coexistence"? What should Christians do so as to avoid invoking Islamic fanaticism against the church?
Mind you, the answers might read like a Middle Ages handbook for dhimmitude. And this is the problem with so much Muslim-Christian Dialogue -- it tends to revolve around Christians, responding to unspoken threats of terror, making concessions towards dhimmitude in the hope that the Muslims won't kill them.
But dhimmitude is not the solution.
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1 ESV)