In june 2008 religious affairs minister maftuh

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Unformatted text preview: return to mainstream Islamic practices. This decree followed many months of concerted attacks on Ahmadiyah members and their places of worship by radical Islamist heavies from the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front). This effective ban triggered international condemnation and widespread concern within Indonesia?s minority religions, and among progressive Muslims. Many Chinese Indonesians remain uncomfortable with conspicuous displays of their religious practice, all too aware of the recent history of violence The assaults on Ahmadiyah took place alongside attacks on Christian places of worship and schools. There have been many local conflicts over the use of buildings as places of worship in recent decades in Indonesia, particularly conflicts between Christian congregations and majority Muslim neighbourhoods, but these have been more frequent in recent years. For many ethnic Chinese Christians, these attacks call to mind similar violence in the final years of the New Order and in the period of transition under Habibie. During the late 1990s attacks on places of worship with largely Chinese congregations escalated in terms of frequency and the levels of violence used. The trigger for much of this violence was the ?legality? of the ?church?. Complaints about extensions being added to buildings without appropriate official permission and excessive noise and traffic in the area on weekends were common. Attacks on what were churches with predominantly ethnic Chinese congregations, such as in Situbondo in mid-1996 and in Holis, a Bandung suburb, in October 1999 also involved attacks on ?Chinese? property aside from their place of worship. Though attacks on churches in recent years have not spread in the same way to other ?Chinese? targets, their increased frequency in conjunction with the attacks on religious freedoms is a cause for concern for ethnic Chinese Christians and their co-religionists. Two years ago, the Minister for Religion and Minister for Home Affairs issued a joint decree that intended to clarify the rules and regulations governing the establishment of places of worship. Under this decree, congregations wishing to establish a place of worship are required to have at least 90 members, show that they have the support of 60 locals, and must acquire municipal permits and clearance from a newly established Community Forum for Religious Harmony. In the mid to long term the new regulations may improve the process for establishing new churches, mosques and temples. But the implications are less clear for buildings that are already being used for worship. Many minority groups operating places of worship in hostile Muslim neighborhoods find themselves in legal limbo and without protection as local communities are resorting to extra-legal methods of protest. In stark contrast, indeed perhaps in defiance of this mood, evangelical Christianity, which is attracting growing numbers of Chinese Indonesians, is making bold new strides. In September 2008 the Indonesian Reformed Evangelical Chur...
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