The Sang Timur Roman Catholic school in the city of Tangerang, near Jakarta, which has about 2000 students, has been suffering constant harassment from local Muslim residents since, in October 2004, they built a wall at the main entrance to the school to prevent access.
The local Muslims apparently object to the school also being used as a place of worship, saying that under Indonesian law, it does not have permission to be used for this purpose. Reporters from the Jakarta Post who visited the school recently found that things haven't changed for the better.
It has been over a year since people living near the Sang Timur Catholic school, located in Karang Tengah, Tangerang, Banten, blocked its main gate by building a concrete wall.
On Saturday, when the school was revisited by The Jakarta Post, local groups said they rebuilt the wall Wednesday and whitewashed it, "Just to make it look nice".
Behind it, some 2,000 students of the Catholic school prayed for freedom and education rights.
"We have rights, too, you know. There are laws on the right to education. If the situation were to persist, it would limit our potential," said third grader Yoel Trihasta Nugraha.
The school's main gate was blocked by local groups on Oct. 3, 2004. After that, the school established four new access points. Land was procured to provide main road access to the school.
But each time a new entrance was made, the locals blocked it. Today, only two of the five entrances can be used. During the weekends, the gates must be closed as demanded by locals.
School principal Sister Clara Ancilla said one of the reasons for the perpetual conflict was because the school had ignored the local groups' objections to the school being used as a place of worship.
"They did warn us, twice. But we did not comply with their request," Clara said.
At one time, the foundation that runs the school proposed a church be built in the area, but the proposal was turned down by the subdistrict administration.
"The people who obstructed the entrance to our school accused us of spreading Christianity in the area. They assumed that was so because we often help out the poor, giving them rice and other basic goods," she said.
"We have tried many things to win the hearts of the locals so that they let us be, but I see no change in their perspective. They still think we are proselytizing," she said.
Clara said that in the last fasting month of Ramadhan she held a fast-breaking event, together with some of the locals.
"Sadly, they thought it was one of our tricks to spread the gospel," she said.
"The children are under a lot of pressure. The protest left fear in their hearts. And they had to walk a long way just to go to school," Clara said.
Ways to solve the problem have been sought, including bringing the dispute before the House of Representatives. The school administrator met with House Speaker Agung Laksono and yet they were promised the same thing every time:
"We will look into the matter," said Clara, citing Agung's words.
Attention was given to the school in the days prior to Christmas last year as 12 officials from the Religious Affairs Ministry visited "to investigate a bomb threat directed at the school."
"Out of the blue, they came to us saying that our safety was at risk. I don't know exactly what they were trying to do as there was no bomb squad with them. But at least they came and warned us," she said.
When asked about the possibility of the conflict being resolved, Clara replied with conviction that God would help and the students would be able to study in peace
"I know Him and he knows us. This too shall pass," the Sister said.