0 Stabbing Sends Alarm to Believers

HKBP Tomok
Sunday’s assault on two church leaders in Pondok Timur, Bekasi, alarmed other beleaguered church congregations, but strengthened their determination to fight for religious freedom.

Bona Sigalingging from the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Taman Yasmin, Bogor, said that the congregation perceived the attack on the leaders of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church more as an encouragement in their struggle than a real threat.

Bona (istimewa)
“The case has reinforced our beliefs, from our spiritual side, that we must defend our church and the freedom of worship,” Bona told The Jakarta Post on Monday. He added church officials said that the congregation continue its struggle.

Rev. Luspida Simandjuntak, and a church elder, Hasian Lumbantoruan Sihombing, were attacked as they, along with HKBP worshippers, were on their way to a Sunday service at the church’s construction site at Ciketing village. Building plans a were halted following protests from residents and  hardline groups.

Similar to the HKBP Pondok Timur’s case, the construction of a church building at Taman Yasmin residential complex was also halted. But this site was sealed by the Bogor municipal administration in March even though the church claimed that it had the necessary permits.

The Pondok Timur congregation holds Sunday services alternately on the sidewalk in front of the church construction site and at a church on Jl. Pengadilan in Bogor.
On Sunday, they were watching the video footage about their struggle to build the church when they heard news about the attack.

“We prayed for the Pondok Timur congregation and also for our safety in performing the service on the sidewalk next Sunday,” Bona said.

A priest of the GPIB Galilea church in the Taman Galaxy residential complex, South Bekasi, Rev. Martinus Tetelepta, whose church has been harassed by members of Islam Defenders Front (FPI), told the Post the stabbing was a warning to all religions in the country.

“This is a warning for all citizens, all religious believers, not only for the HKBP Pondok Timur congregation, that there is a lack of religious harmony,” he said.

Tetelepta, who is also a member of the Local Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGIS) of Bekasi, added that religious freedom involved all religions and their interests.

On Feb. 15, several people sprayed paint on the church’s door, accusing the church of proselytizing and said that it should be sealed. However, the congregation still holds Sunday services at the church.
Rev. Palti Panjaitan from HKBP Filadelfia church in Bekasi regency said that Sunday’s attack was a warning for his congregation.

“Surely there is fear among the Filadelfia congregation, and they might be afraid to attend the next Sunday service,” he said.

He added the church would increase their vigilance as the culprits apparently used the same methods of intimidation, as well as violence, against the beleaguered churches.

Panjaitan said that his congregation performed the Sunday service in front of their sealed church construction site, pending the final legal settlement of the case.

Kabid Humas Polda Mero Jaya Kombes Pol Boy Rafli Amar
Jakarta Policespokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar said Monday the police were still hunting for  those who attacked the church leaders.

On Sunday the Bekasi police arrested two people as suspected attackers, however Boy said that the police had released them because they were not guilty of any offense.

“They were actually greengrocers with sharp knives, who passed by when the incident happened,”  he said.
The police have questioned five witnesses, from HKBP Pondok Timur and the neighborhood, Boy said.
Commenting on the stabbing, Boy said that the incident was merely a street crime that had nothing to do with religion.

(TheJakartaPost.com  | Martin Simamora)

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