Muslim mobs in the Jakarta suburb of Bekasi are forming small militia bands to stop what they say is the Christianization of this town a few miles east of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city.
The actions come in response to Christians privately baptizing about a half-dozen Muslim converts to Christianity.
International Christian Concern’s Southeast Asian area specialist Logan Maurer reports the “call to arms” is the result of a recent convention.
“This past week, the major mosques in Bekasi had a conference that included the major organizations in that region. They called clearly for paramilitary units to form in local mosques to combat the Christianization of their city,” Maurer stated.
“There were people that even organized the units that went around from mosque to mosque to set up these units and train them,” Maurer explained.
The International Christian Concern area specialist referred to the June 20 Bekasi Islamic Conference that was attended by over 200 area Muslims. The Jakarta Post reported about 500 people attended the meetings and that conference attendees were asking government officials to implement Shariah law.
Maurer says there is evidence the situation could become hostile for area Christians.
“We have quotes from some of the organizations saying that they want peace. But if they don’t get peace, they’re prepared for war. This is the kind of situation that the people have in Bekasi,” Maurer observed.
Listen to the audio of Logan Maurer’s interview below:
Listen to the audio of Logan Maurer’s interview below:
Maurer said Indonesia is still overwhelmingly Muslim, so the Muslims’ concerns are greatly overblown.
“In Bekasi, in particular, they’re citing examples of Christians ‘converting’ Muslims and Christians baptizing Muslims. Both of these are small-scale, and if they’re happening, they’re being done in a private setting,” Maurer explained.
“There’s one example where one of the Muslim leaders at this conference said that there was a mass baptism occurring. On investigation, we found that it was locals going to a pool,” Maurer explained further.
“They are very alarmist and they’re looking for a problem. They’re almost creating the problem themselves by arming themselves for war,” Maurer added.
The actual number of people who have converted to Christianity is still relatively low according to Maurer.
“The number of people converting to Christianity is still very small, but the numbers are increasing,” Maurer said.
Yet, as Maurer stated, the small number of conversions is still apparently enough to prompt calls to war among the Bekasi Muslims.
“There have been instances, going back a few years now, but before 2010 there have been several instances where the Muslims have protested or rioted and tried to crack down on Christianity in the Bekasi area,” Maurer observed.
Concern among Indonesian Christians is over the actions that are being considered by the Muslim imams calling for war.
“Tactics where they attack and capture houses would be extreme and they haven’t said that yet. They are preparing paramilitary units and we can assume that means they’ll be armed,” Maurer observed.
“These (the paramilitary units) will be units stationed at each mosque, the hardliner mosques. And they’ll be prepared for war. We have that in quotes from the leaders,” Maurer continued.
“This can very easily be a situation where people’s homes are invaded. Oftentimes, even the allegation of being a Christian is enough for your home to be invaded and evidence brought out,” Maurer observed further.
An Indonesia analyst, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said the imams in the Bekasi mosques have mobilized their people for violence before.
“Many of the Islamic terrorists who were involved in killing thousands of Christians in the Maluku Islands were from the city of Bekasi,” the analyst said.
The Maluku Islands are also called the Moluccas, or the Spice Islands, described by some tourist sites as a tropical paradise.
Six years ago, the Maluku Islands were anything but a paradise for the Christians, even in the capital city of Ambon. One BBC report said thousands of people died in the clashes between Muslims and Christians.
The BBC reported the conflict was equally between Muslims and Christians, but the Indonesia analyst reports the violence was actually one-sided.
“Thousands of Muslims were killing unarmed Christians for three to four years from 2001 to 2004,” the analyst stated.
“The U.S. newspapers didn’t cover the story, but the British press did,” the analyst added.
There may be hope the situation will not escalate into another full-scale conflict. Maurer said some of the mosques in the Bekasi area are softening their rhetoric.
“Some of the Muslim organizations in Indonesia have condemned what the hardliner leaders are saying. They’re trying to distance themselves from the words,” Maurer reported.
However, all of the Bekasi-area Muslim clerics aren’t softening their stance. Maurer says the radicals are still getting prepared.
“Yet the hardliners aren’t backing down one bit. The organization that they formed, called the Bekasi Presidium, that’s the one that’s preparing for war. They’re still proceeding with their training,” Maurer stated.
“It’s going to come to a clash, either between the moderates and the hardliners or certainly between Islam and Christianity,” Maurer added.
The area specialist says the Jakarta-area Christians are preparing for the violence differently.
“The Christians certainly are not taking similar steps. They’re not arming themselves. Just on a very basic level they don’t have the numbers even ideologically,” Maurer states.
The area specialist adds that armed action is completely off the table.
“The Christians that we are in close contact with wouldn’t think of forming paramilitary units to combat a threat like this. So far they’ve been trying to make the world aware of what’s going on. They think that the best way to combat this kind of threat,” Maurer explained.
The Indonesia analyst who asked not to be identified added there is another way to respond to the volatile situation.
“Pray that the Bekasi Muslims who seek to kill Christians will have a personal encounter with Jesus as their Messiah. The Apostle Paul actively sought to kill followers of Christ until he had a personal encounter with Christ,” the Indonesia specialist said.