Sectarian mapping of cities to prevent conflict, as another church, in Bekasi, is closed.
Having lived in Bekasi, West Java some years ago, the Jakarta Post article about 'religious mapping' holds interest. The very idea that you need to map an area to provide for peaceful sectarian co-existence, never mind integration, sums up what is wrong with Indonesia. It can be better summarised in two words: Muslim clerics, as in this story of protests against the construction of a Protestant church in Bekasi recently:
Rusli, 38, a moderate Muslim, was in a quandary when local clerics recently asked him and other residents to sign a petition against the building of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (Filadelfia Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP)) church in their neighborhood in Jejalen Jaya.
The clerics said that if we didn’t sign, they wouldn’t recite prayers at our funerals. I insisted on not signing it, but most of my neighbors were cowed by the threat.
With local clerics still playing a pivotal leadership role in rural parts of Bekasi, people in the Muslim-majority region are easily dragged into conflicts sparked by religious tensions. The spat between the HKBP and the Jejalen Jaya residents only escalated once Muslim clerics in the subdistrict began inciting opposition to the construction of the church.
All Muslim clerics in this subdistrict have agreed the construction of the church must desist immediately
says protest leader Nesan.
So what's their problem? Murhali, Bekasi FPI leader said on TVone on Sunday that there were 6 churches in the area.
At night, their singing disturbs the locals’ sleep
They can hardly be serious in saying that church-bells and hymn-singing 'disturb' Muslim residents, since their own mosques emit cacaphonous ululations again and again every day, not least when normal folk are abed and asleep.
Bekasi '45 Islamic University sociologist Andi Sopandi points out such faith-fomented conflicts are to be expected. Such disputes, he says, occur frequently in developing rural or suburban areas across the country, where the influx of newcomers with a more diverse background has grated on traditionally more homogeneous communities.
Locals and newcomers get along well only if they share similar basic values, and for most Indonesians, that would be religion
says Andi, who advised former vice president Jusuf Kalla during the latter’s mediation to end the deadly inter-religious clashes in Poso, Central Sulawesi. Given the situation, he goes on, the establishment of an interfaith communication forum alone is never enough.
True enough, Andi, but what is to be done?
Andi believes it is paramount for all regional administrations in the country, including in Bekasi, to produce a map, updated each year, that shows the spread of religious clusters in the area.
The map shouldn’t just list the populations of each religion, but should also point out their homes and nearest houses of worship. Using such a map, the local administration can work with its Interfaith Communication Forum to allow for houses of worship to be established where the population of any particular religious group is high.
It might, one would think, be easier just to let people build a church, or temple, or mosque, subject to parking needs etc., and allow for freedom of religion to proceed, but not here. The ignorant savages who hold court in the mosques direct their flock to hound anybody who doesn't share their beliefs.
Why, we have to ask again? And it does seem to come back to the paranoid fear among these clerics that their flock will jump ship. Repeatedly, we hear the horrified fanatics speaking of 'conversion'. Sometimes they use the term 'Christianisation' of areas, as if there's some Rome-directed plot to flood Bekasi with Catholics or perhaps American evangelists are master-minding wholesale Protestant indoctrination of the Bekasi masses. No wonder Islamic spokesmen often prescribe the death penalty for anyone who converts out.
Are rank-and-file Muslims truly so weak in their faith that only such barbaric threats keep them bending the knee to bearded ignoramuses? I doubt it. Most people need a pretty heavy reason to change the religion they were born into.
The menace of proselytisation was also the excuse in last week's report from Taman Galaxy, which is a nice little housing estate there where I occasionally did some work about seven years back. Everybody seemed civil enough, no signs of irrationality, at least no more than usual. But this year, we have 16 Islamist outfits up in arms because Galilea Church has a little Sunday fair.
One Murhali said that there were allegations that the church was carrying out a mission to convert residents.
We received reports that church officials often held a charity bazaar for locals but they were asked to say that Jesus is their God. I think it’s a violation.
Sounds unlikely, but what the heck, even if they were asked, they can 'just say no', nobody forced them to go there, and given Islam's record of forcible conversion, a charity bazaar is pea-nuts.
I'm sure Andi Sopandi is a well-meaning man, but maps will only show that non-Muslims are in a minority just about everywhere in Bekasi and in Jakarta. The kind of bigoted clerics we're talking about here don't care at all if it's 2% or 20% - backed up by the kind of Islamist zealots who run the political show in Bekasi, they want to stamp out any alternative source of spiritual guidance that might seem preferable to their own unpleasant brand.