Islamic groups demand halt to threatened congregation’s worship.
JAKARTA, Indonesia, October 13 (CDN) — Two churches in the greater Jakarta area have received bomb threats.
In East Jakarta, the pastor of a Batak Protestant Christian Church (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan, or HKBP) on Bogor Street received a threatening phone call before Sunday services on Oct. 4. The church building is located near the headquarters of an elite police corps.
The unknown caller to the Rev. Abidan Simanungkalit’s cell phone said the bomb would explode during the morning worship service, the pastor told Compass.
“I was startled to receive the short message,” he said. “I immediately phoned some church leaders and then called police.”
Scores of police and bomb squad officers came to the site and combed the area for a bomb, discovering a black package in a garbage container near the front of the church building. It contained four large batteries, a small wall clock and a tin can, and after a two hours police determined that it was not a bomb.
Officers speculated that the caller was unable to construct a real bomb but wanted to publicize a threat.
Pastor Simanungkalit said congregation members were alarmed over the threat and that the morning worship was uneasy.
“They were panicky and fearful,” he said. “People kept getting up to go outside and check on things.”
The church has never had problems with anyone that would lead to such a threat, the pastor added.
“Everything has been peaceful,” he said. “The close proximity of the police headquarters seemed to guarantee peace.”
In north Bekasi in the Jakarta metropolitan area, a church leader of a Bethel Indonesia congregation received a similar threat the previous day, Oct. 3.
Jeffry Lalamentik said he received the threat on his cell phone, with the unknown caller also saying, “Your church will be bombed during morning worship.”
Upon receiving the threat, Lalamentik said, he contacted the Rev. Daniel Susanto, who quickly called police. A bomb squad arrived shortly after and made a thorough search, but they did not discover any explosive device.
Lalamentik said there was reason to take the threat seriously. In July a number of radical Islamic groups, including the Islamic Defenders’ Front (Front Pembela Islam), Iqra Echo and the Forum for Communication and Hospitality of the Musala Mosque (FKSMM) in Bekasi demanded that the church close.
The church meets in a private home in the midst of a housing complex.
“We are putting up a permanent church building,” Lalamentik said. “Until that is finished, we are worshipping at Pastor Daniel’s home.”
Pastor Susanto said the church had secured permission for the church building from Bekasi officials in April. The Muslim organizations, he said, have opposed the church meetings at his house, where worship has taken place since 2000.
“We normally worship at my home but occasionally move to other houses,” the pastor told Compass.
A crowd of 600 protestors from Islamic organizations have demonstrated in front of Bekasi government offices demanding a halt to the Bethel Indonesia church’s worship services, he added, and they are also fighting the establishment of the congregation’s building.
Budi Santosa of the FKSMM said that the required papers for the building permit were incomplete because the recommendation from the local Interfaith Communications Forum was missing.
The Muslim groups have met with the deputy mayor of Bekasi, Mochtar Mohammad, and the assistant leader of the Bekasi City Council, Ahmad Syiakhu, as well as several other officials. Santosa said the officials are studying the Islamic organizations’ objections to both the house church worship and its building but have taken no action.
Report from Compass Direct News