Hundreds of Christian theology students have been living in tents since a mob of angry Muslim neighbors stormed their campus last month wilding bamboo spears and hurling Molotov cocktails. Historically, Indonesia has always displayed a moderate and open respect for those who are not Muslims, but there are increasing signs of a change in that attitude due to the presence of an increasingly militant Muslim faction. The Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology has reluctantly agreed to shut down its campus in east Jakarta and relocate to a smaller building on the other side of town. A banner that was flown on the main street in the area said: “We the community of Kampung Pulo demand the campus be closed and dissolved.”
The government of President Susio Bambang Yudhoyono relies on the support of Islamic parties in Parliament which increases pressure not to take a strong stand in defense of religious freedom. Professor Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest who has lived in Indonesia for half a century commented: “People are still tolerant but there is a a growing suspicion among Muslims of others.” He said police have failed to prevent attacks on Christians and have forced closure of churches and nontraditional Muslim mosques which are disliked by militant Muslims. A spokesperson for the school, Manave, said: “We’re living in a country where there are m any religions but the government cannot prevent the actions of fundamentalist groups. The government cannot protect minorities.” Is the question whether the government “cannot protect” or is it “does not want to protect” minorities?