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Bumper sticker prompts another Islamist attack on Indonesian church

Country/Region: Indonesia, South and East Asia

A sticker on the back of a church member’s car prompted another Islamist attack on a beleaguered Indonesian church, forcing its New Year’s Eve gathering to disband.

Scores of Muslims from the hard-line Islamic Reform Movement (Garis) descended on GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor; they terrorised the congregation and attacked several church members.

The incident was prompted by a bumper sticker on a church member’s car; it said, “We need a friendly Islam, not an angry Islam”. Garis chairman Majudien, who chased after the vehicle, said that the sticker was “a provocative action” against the Muslims of Bogor.

The congregation was forced to disperse and move the service to the home of one of the members.

Abdurrahman-Wahid-Ind-Pres-No4-4X3.jpg
The sticker was from the family of former president Abdurrahman Wahid

GKI spokesman Bona Sigalingging said that the sticker was a souvenir distributed by the family of the late former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid during a commemoration of his death the previous week. Mr Wahid, a Muslim cleric, was the spiritual leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest moderate Islamic organisation. He campaigned against Islamist extremists and promoted religious freedom, constantly speaking out for persecuted minorities.

GKI Yasmin has been coming under mounting pressure from the Bogor authorities and militant Islamists. The church’s half-constructed building has been illegally sealed off by city chiefs since 2008, forcing the congregation to hold services on the street. Various ploys have been used in a bid to prevent the church from gathering publicly, and the congregation has faced repeated protests by Islamists.

But it received support at Christmas from Banser, a Muslim paramilitary group attached to Nahdlatul Ulama. Following rumours that radical Islamists would break up the church’s Christmas celebrations, Banser provided protection for the congregation.

They had been blocked from their site by hundreds of police officers and other officials so moved the service to a member’s home, where dozens of Banser stood guard.

Members of the Muslim group also provided protection to churches in Solo, Central Java.

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