Indonesia is not only the world’s largest Muslim nation, but it has long held the reputation of being open to the right of all people to pray without fear of being intimidated. However, the emergence of a strong fundamentalist movement is beginning to impact the right of Christians to worship in peace. three Christian congregations in Bekasi are being threatened by militants who want to tear down their churches. Three priests argued, “we just want freedom to pry. We believe this nation ha slaws to protect freedom of religion.” The priests were given a letter signed by the district leader, Tuffana, which said he was ordering the destruction of the churches “in response to demands of local residents.” The Christians have petitions signed by over a 100 Muslim residents supporting their right to pray.
At initial glance, this is a rather minor issue in a large nation, but it is a symptom of the slow but steady pressure being exerted on the Indonesian government to impair the right of non-Muslims to pray in peace. Christians in Bekasi have been prevented since 2005 from praying in their churches due to threats from a group called, “Islam Defenders Front.” Indonesia must retain its leadership in religious toleration or it will only encourage the forces of fundamentalism.