Buddhist extremists in India have burnt 20 churches

FALSE/HOAX:: Buddhist extremists in India have burnt 20 churches

This news = FALSA/HOAX: according to snopes.com: Buddhist Extremists = http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/india.asp

http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/india.asp

P. Samuel M. Chetcuti OFM Conv.P. Provincial of the Franciscans Conventual
Republic Street, Valletta VLT 1110, Malt Tef. (356) 21241167Fax (356) 21223556

I forward to you the message received from the provincial superior of the Franciscans in India.

“Pray for the Church in India. Buddhist extremists in India have burnt 20 churches last night.This evening they plan to destroy 200 churches in the province of Olisabang.

They plan to kill 200 missionaries during the next 24 hours. Right now, all Christians are hiding in the villages. Pray for them and send this email to all Christians you know.

Ask God to have mercy on our brothers and sisters of India. When you receive this message, please send it urgently to others. Pray for them to our Almighty and Victorious Lord.

P. Samuel M. Chetcuti OFM Conv.P. Provincial of the Franciscans ConventualRepublic Street, Valletta VLT 1110, Malt Tef. (356) 21241167Fax (356) 21223556Mob (336) 99865668

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President Obama’s Speech at University of Indonesia

President Obama’s Speech at University of Indonesia:

“… May our two nations work together, with faith and determination …”

Jakarta, November 10, 2010

 

 

Thank you for this wonderful welcome. Thank you to the people of Jakarta. And thank you to the people of Indonesia.I am so glad that I made it to Indonesia, and that Michelle was able to join me. We had a couple of false starts this year, but I was determined to visit a country that has meant so much to me. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly quick visit, but I look forward to coming back a year from now, when Indonesia hosts the East Asia Summit.

 

Before I go any further, I want to say that our thoughts and prayers are with all of those Indonesians affected by the recent tsunami and volcanic eruptions – particularly those who have lost loved ones, and those who have been displaced. As always, the United States stands with Indonesia in responding to this natural disaster, and we are pleased to be able to help as needed. As neighbors help neighbors and families take in the displaced, I know that the strength and resilience of the Indonesian people will pull you through once more.

 

Let me begin with a simple statement: Indonesia is a part of me. I first came to this country when my mother married an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro. As a young boy, I was coming to a different world. But the people of Indonesia quickly made me feel at home.

 

Jakarta looked very different in those days. The city was filled with buildings that were no more than a few stories tall. The Hotel Indonesia was one of the few high rises, and there was just one brand new shopping center called Sarinah. Betchaks outnumbered automobiles in those days, and the highway quickly gave way to unpaved roads and kampongs.

 

We moved to Menteng Dalam, where we lived in a small house with a mango tree out front. I learned to love Indonesia while flying kites, running along paddy fields, catching dragonflies, and buying satay and baso from the street vendors. Most of all, I remember the people – the old men and women who welcomed us with smiles; the children who made a foreigner feel like a neighbor; and the teachers who helped me learn about the wider world.

 

Because Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, hundreds of languages, and people from scores of regions and ethnic groups, my times here helped me appreciate the common humanity of all people. And while my stepfather, like most Indonesians, was raised a Muslim, he firmly believed that all religions were worthy of respect. In this way, he reflected the spirit of religious tolerance that is enshrined in Indonesia’s Constitution, and that remains one of this country’s defining and inspiring characteristics.

 

I stayed here for four years – a time that helped shape my childhood; a time that saw the birth of my wonderful sister, Maya; and a time that made such an impression on my mother that she kept returning to Indonesia over the next twenty years to live, work and travel – pursuing her passion of promoting opportunity in Indonesia’s villages, particularly for women and girls. For her entire life, my mother held this place and its people close to her heart.

 

So much has changed in the four decades since I boarded a plane to move back to Hawaii. If you asked me – or any of my schoolmates who knew me back then – I don’t think any of us could have anticipated that I would one day come back to Jakarta as President of the United States. And few could have anticipated the remarkable story of Indonesia over these last four decades.

 

The Jakarta that I once knew has grown to a teeming city of nearly ten million, with skyscrapers that dwarf the Hotel Indonesia, and thriving centers of culture and commerce. While my Indonesian friends and I used to run in fields with water buffalo and goats, a new generation of Indonesians is among the most wired in the world – connected through cell phones and social networks. And while Indonesia as a young nation focused inward, a growing Indonesia now plays a key role in the Asia Pacific and the global economy.

 

This change extends to politics. When my step-father was a boy, he watched his own father and older brother leave home to fight and die in the struggle for Indonesian independence. I’m happy to be here on Heroes Day to honor the memory of so many Indonesians who have sacrificed on behalf of this great country.

 

When I moved to Jakarta, it was 1967, a time that followed great suffering and conflict in parts of this country. Even though my step-father had served in the Army, the violence and killing during that time of political upheaval was largely unknown to me because it was unspoken by my Indonesian family and friends. In my household, like so many others across Indonesia, it was an invisible presence. Indonesians had their independence, but fear was not far away.

 

In the years since then, Indonesia has charted its own course through an extraordinary democratic transformation – from the rule of an iron fist to the rule of the people. In recent years, the world has watched with hope and admiration, as Indonesians embraced the peaceful transfer of power and the direct election of leaders. And just as your democracy is symbolized by your elected President and legislature, your democracy is sustained and fortified by its checks and balances: a dynamic civil society; political parties and unions; a vibrant media and engaged citizens who have ensured that – in Indonesia – there will be no turning back.

 

But even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia – that spirit of tolerance that is written into your Constitution; symbolized in your mosques and churches and temples; and embodied in your people – still lives on. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – unity in diversity. This is the foundation of Indonesia’s example to the world, and this is why Indonesia will play such an important role in the 21st century.

 

So today, I return to Indonesia as a friend, but also as a President who seeks a deep and enduring partnership between our two countries. Because as vast and diverse countries; as neighbors on either side of the Pacific; and above all as democracies – the United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values.

 

Yesterday, President Yudhoyono and I announced a new, Comprehensive Partnership between the United States and Indonesia. We are increasing ties between our governments in many different areas, and – just as importantly – we are increasing ties among our people. This is a partnership of equals, grounded in mutual interests and mutual respect.

 

With the rest of my time today, I’d like to talk about why the story I just told – the story of Indonesia since the days when I lived here – is so important to the United States, and to the world. I will focus on three areas that are closely related, and fundamental to human progress – development, democracy, and religion.

 

First, the friendship between the United States and Indonesia can advance our mutual interest in development.

When I moved to Indonesia, it would have been hard to imagine a future in which the prosperity of families in Chicago and Jakarta would be connected. But our economies are now global, and Indonesians have experienced both the promise and perils of globalization: from the shock of the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s to the millions lifted out of poverty. What that means – and what we learned in the recent economic crisis – is that we have a stake in each other’s success.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that is growing, with prosperity that is broadly shared among the Indonesian people – because a rising middle class here means new markets for our goods, just as America is a market for yours. And so we are investing more in Indonesia, our exports have grown by nearly 50 percent, and we are opening doors for Americans and Indonesians to do business with one another.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that plays its rightful role in shaping the global economy. Gone are the days when seven or eight countries could come together to determine the direction of global markets. That is why the G-20 is now the center of international economic cooperation, so that emerging economies like Indonesia have a greater voice and bear greater responsibility. And through its leadership of the G-20’s anti-corruption group, Indonesia should lead on the world stage and by example in embracing transparency and accountability.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that pursues sustainable development, because the way we grow will determine the quality of our lives and the health of our planet. That is why we are developing clean energy technologies that can power industry and preserve Indonesia’s precious natural resources – and America welcomes your country’s strong leadership in the global effort to combat climate change.

 

Above all, America has a stake in the success of the Indonesian people. Underneath the headlines of the day, we must build bridges between our peoples, because our future security and prosperity is shared. That is exactly what we are doing – by increased collaboration among our scientists and researchers, and by working together to foster entrepreneurship. And I am especially pleased that we have committed to double the number of American and Indonesian students studying in our respective countries – we want more Indonesian students in our schools, and more American students to come study in this country, so that we can forge new ties that last well into this young century.

 

These are the issues that really matter in our daily lives. Development, after all, is not simply about growth rates and numbers on a balance sheet. It’s about whether a child can learn the skills they need to make it in a changing world. It’s about whether a good idea is allowed to grow into a business, and not be suffocated by corruption. It’s about whether those forces that have transformed the Jakarta that I once knew -technology and trade and the flow of people and goods – translate into a better life for human beings, a life marked by dignity and opportunity.

 

This kind of development is inseparable from the role of democracy.

 

Today, we sometimes hear that democracy stands in the way of economic progress. This is not a new argument. Particularly in times of change and economic uncertainty, some will say that it is easier to take a shortcut to development by trading away the rights of human beings for the power of the state. But that is not what I saw on my trip to India, and that is not what I see in Indonesia. Your achievements demonstrate that democracy and development reinforce one another.

 

Like any democracy, you have known setbacks along the way. America is no different. Our own Constitution spoke of the effort to forge a “more perfect union,” and that is a journey we have travelled ever since, enduring Civil War and struggles to extend rights to all of our citizens. But it is precisely this effort that has allowed us to become stronger and more prosperous, while also becoming a more just and free society.

 

Like other countries that emerged from colonial rule in the last century, Indonesia struggled and sacrificed for the right to determine your destiny. That is what Heroes Day is all about – an Indonesia that belongs to Indonesians. But you also ultimately decided that freedom cannot mean replacing the strong hand of a colonizer with a strongman of your own.

 

Of course, democracy is messy. Not everyone likes the results of every election. You go through ups and downs. But the journey is worthwhile, and it goes beyond casting a ballot. It takes strong institutions to check the concentration of power. It takes open markets that allow individuals to thrive. It takes a free press and an independent justice system to root out abuse and excess, and to insist upon accountability. It takes open society and active citizens to reject inequality and injustice.

 

These are the forces that will propel Indonesia forward. And it will require a refusal to tolerate the corruption that stands in the way of opportunity; a commitment to transparency that gives every Indonesian a stake in their government; and a belief that the freedom that Indonesians have fought for is what holds this great nation together.

 

That is the message of the Indonesians who have advanced this democratic story – from those who fought in the Battle of Surabaya 55 years ago today; to the students who marched peacefully for democracy in the 1990s, to leaders who have embraced the peaceful transition of power in this young century. Because ultimately, it will be the rights of citizens that will stitch together this remarkable Nusantara that stretches from Sabang to Merauke – an insistence that every child born in this country should be treated equally, whether they come from Java or Aceh; Bali or Papua.

 

That effort extends to the example that Indonesia sets abroad. Indonesia took the initiative to establish the Bali Democracy Forum, an open forum for countries to share their experiences and best practices in fostering democracy. Indonesia has also been at the forefront of pushing for more attention to human rights within ASEAN. The nations of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny, and the United States will strongly support that right. But the people of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny as well. That is why we condemned elections in Burma that were neither free nor fair. That is why we are supporting your vibrant civil society in working with counterparts across this region. Because there is no reason why respect for human rights should stop at the border of any country.

 

Hand in hand, that is what development and democracy are about – the notion that certain values are universal. Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty. Because there are aspirations that human beings share – the liberty of knowing that your leader is accountable to you, and that you won’t be locked up for disagreeing with them; the opportunity to get an education and to work with dignity; the freedom to practice your faith without fear or restriction.

 

Religion is the final topic that I want to address today, and – like democracy and development – it is fundamental to the Indonesian story.

 

Like the other Asian nations that I am visiting on this trip, Indonesia is steeped in spirituality – a place where people worship God in many different ways. Along with this rich diversity, it is also home to the world’s largest Muslim population – a truth that I came to know as a boy when I heard the call to prayer across Jakarta.

 

Just as individuals are not defined solely by their faith, Indonesia is defined by more than its Muslim population. But we also know that relations between the United States and Muslim communities have frayed over many years. As President, I have made it a priority to begin to repair these relations. As a part of that effort, I went to Cairo last June, and called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world – one that creates a path for us to move beyond our differences.

 

I said then, and I will repeat now, that no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust. But I believed then, and I believe today, that we have a choice. We can choose to be defined by our differences, and give in to a future of suspicion and mistrust. Or we can choose to do the hard work of forging common ground, and commit ourselves to the steady pursuit of progress. And I can promise you – no matter what setbacks may come, the United States is committed to human progress. That is who we are. That is what we have done. That is what we will do.

 

We know well the issues that have caused tensions for many years – issues that I addressed in Cairo. In the 17 months that have passed we have made some progress, but much more work remains to be done.

 

Innocent civilians in America, Indonesia, and across the world are still targeted by violent extremists. I have made it clear that America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion – certainly not a great, world religion like Islam. But those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy. This is not a task for America alone. Indeed, here in Indonesia, you have made progress in rooting out terrorists and combating violent extremism.

 

In Afghanistan, we continue to work with a coalition of nations to build the capacity of the Afghan government to secure its future. Our shared interest is in building peace in a war-torn land – a peace that provides no safe-haven for violent extremists, and that provides hope for the Afghan people.

 

Meanwhile, we have made progress on one of our core commitments – our effort to end the war in Iraq. 100,000 American troops have left Iraq. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their security. And we will continue to support Iraq as it forms an inclusive government and we bring all of our troops home.

 

In the Middle East, we have faced false starts and setbacks, but we have been persistent in our pursuit of peace. Israelis and Palestinians restarted direct talks, but enormous obstacles remain. There should be no illusions that peace and security will come easy. But let there be no doubt: we will spare no effort in working for the outcome that is just, and that is in the interest of all the parties involved: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

 

The stakes are high in resolving these issues, and the others I have spoken about today. For our world has grown smaller and while those forces that connect us have unleashed opportunity, they also empower those who seek to derail progress. One bomb in a marketplace can obliterate the bustle of daily commerce. One whispered rumor can obscure the truth, and set off violence between communities that once lived in peace. In an age of rapid change and colliding cultures, what we share as human beings can be lost.

 

But I believe that the history of both America and Indonesia gives us hope. It’s a story written into our national mottos. E pluribus unum – out of many, one. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – unity in diversity. We are two nations, which have travelled different paths. Yet our nations show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag. And we are now building on that shared humanity – through the young people who will study in each other’s schools; through the entrepreneurs forging ties that can lead to prosperity; and through our embrace of fundamental democratic values and human aspirations..

 

Earlier today, I visited the Istiqlal mosque – a place of worship that was still under construction when I lived in Jakarta. I admired its soaring minaret, imposing dome, and welcoming space. But its name and history also speak to what makes Indonesia great. Istiqlal means independence, and its construction was in part a testament to the nation’s struggle for freedom. Moreover, this house of worship for many thousands of Muslims was designed by a Christian architect.

 

Such is Indonesia’s spirit. Such is the message of Indonesia’s inclusive philosophy, Pancasila. Across an archipelago that contains some of God’s most beautiful creations, islands rising above an ocean named for peace, people choose to worship God as they please. Islam flourishes, but so do other faiths. Development is strengthened by an emerging democracy. Ancient traditions endure, even as a rising power is on the move.

 

That is not to say that Indonesia is without imperfections. No country is. But here can be found the ability to bridge divides of race and region and religion – that ability to see yourself in all individuals. As a child of a different race coming from a distant country, I found this spirit in the greeting that I received upon moving here: Selamat Datang. As a Christian visiting a mosque on this visit, I found it in the words of a leader who was asked about my visit and said, “Muslims are also allowed in churches. We are all God’s followers.”

 

That spark of the divine lies within each of us. We cannot give in to doubt or cynicism or despair. The stories of Indonesia and America tell us that history is on the side of human progress; that unity is more powerful than division; and that the people of this world can live together in peace. May our two nations work together, with faith and determination, to share these truths with all mankind.

Christianity’s Surge in Indonesia

Monday, Apr. 26, 2010

Christianity’s Surge in Indonesia

By Hannah Beech / Temanggung

 

They flocked to the open field by the hundreds to praise Allah. In a village in central Java, just a few miles from where Indonesian special forces shot dead an Islamic terrorist linked to the fatal July bombings of two hotels in Jakarta, worshippers raised their hands to the heavens. But this ceremony, which took place as the call of the muezzin echoed in the sultry air, was not a celebration of Islam. Instead, in the heart of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, Christians held a Pentecostal revival, complete with faith healing and speaking in tongues. As a tropical downpour fell, believers’ tears mixed with rain — and a line of sick and disabled took to the stage to claim they had been cured by a God they, like Indonesian Muslims, call Allah. “People think Indonesia is just a Muslim country, but look at all these people,” says pastor David Nugroho, whose Gesing church boasts a congregation of 400 worshippers today, up from 30 when it was founded in 1967. “We are not afraid to show our faith.”

A religious revolution is transforming Indonesia. Part of the spiritual blossoming entails Muslims embracing a more conservative form of faith, mirroring global trends that have meant a proliferation of headscarves and beards in modern Islamic capitals. More surprising, though, is the boom in Christianity — officially Indonesia’s second largest faith and a growing force throughout Asia. Indeed, the number of Asian Christian faithful exploded to 351 million adherents in 2005, up from 101 million in 1970, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, based in Washington, D.C. (See pictures of spiritual healing around the world.)

Much of the growth comes from Pentecostal and Evangelical conversions, which have spread charismatic Christianity across the globe and are a large reason for estimates that by 2050 a majority of Christians will be living in developing nations. Already, less than a quarter of the world’s 600 million Pentecostals reside in the West, where the modern movement has its roots. Indeed, Pentecostalism is believed by some to be the fastest-growing faith in the world, if measured by conversions as opposed to births.

Because of the relative youth of these Evangelical sects, they are less bound by the history of colonial conversion that has complicated the legacy of, say, Roman Catholicism or mainstream Protestantism. Instead, by focusing on personal salvation adapted to local environments, Evangelicals, especially Pentecostals, have found great success across Asia in recent years, from Indian metropolises like Chennai to rural China where homegrown sects are drawing in tens of thousands of people each year. The world’s largest megachurch is the Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, which claims a membership of 830,000 people. Its Pentecostal Sunday services regularly attract a quarter of a million people to an upscale neighborhood of Seoul. In poorer regions of Asia, as well as within many ethnic Chinese communities, converts are lured by the so-called prosperity gospel, an American theology linked to charismatic Christianity that promises riches to those who follow a moral path. (See “The Biology of Belief.”)

For many in the global Evangelical community, though, it is the faith’s inroads in Indonesia — a nation with some 215 million Muslim adherents — that are most riveting. Exact figures are hard to gather in a country where conversions from Islam to Christianity face a stigma and likely lead to an underreporting of Christian believers. The 2000 census counted just under 10% of Indonesians as Christians, a figure many Christian leaders believe is too low. Anecdotal evidence paints a compelling picture of the faith’s rapid rise. In the early 1960s, for instance, there were no Evangelical churches in Temanggung, where the soccer-field revival took place; now there are more than 40. In the capital Jakarta, newly built megachurches that might seem more at home in Texas send steeples into the sky. Other Christians worship at unofficial churches based in hotels and malls, where Sunday services rival shopping as a popular weekend activity. Asia’s tallest statue of Jesus Christ, built in 2007, presides over Manado city in eastern Indonesia, while Indonesian cable TV beams 24-hour Christian channels.

State of Grace — and Disgrace
What is it about Evangelical Christianity that has so resonated in Indonesia? As in many other crowded, developing-world countries where a person can feel lost in a teeming slum, the concept of individual salvation is a powerful one. At the same time, the attempted hijacking of Muslim theology by a small band of homegrown terrorists who have killed hundreds of Indonesians in recent years has led some to question their nation’s majority faith. So, too, has the general trend toward a more conservative Islam that has given rise to hundreds of religiously inspired bylaws, from caning for beer-drinking to enforced dress codes for women.

Not everyone, though, is celebrating Christianity’s boom. Some Muslims view the faith as an unwanted foreign influence, even though Islam, too, is an imported religion. Since the country exchanged dictatorship for democracy more than a decade ago, a great diversity of voices has arisen. But an unfortunate byproduct of this pluralism has been an uptick in religious conflict, which has affected unorthodox offshoots of Islam and Christian sects alike. Although bloody outpourings — like the communal riots that claimed more than 1,000 Christian and Muslim lives in Poso and Ambon around a decade ago — have ceased, spasms of violence are still occurring.

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Over the past couple of years, Christian groups say, dozens of churches and theological academies have been destroyed or forced to shut by Islamic groups who accuse Christians of stealing believers from Muslim ranks. Despite appointing prominent Christians to his Cabinet, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said little to defend religious minorities, and has remained silent as dozens of local governments pass Islamic-based laws that threaten Christian rights. Such moves “conflict with the constitution and have the potential to threaten freedom of religion in this country,” according to Hendardi, chairman of the Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based NGO that promotes pluralism.

Last year, the Indonesia Ulema Council, an influential Islamic clerical body, sounded the alarm about Christian proselytization and called on Muslims to more staunchly guard their faith. The pace with which unlicensed churches are being shut down by local authorities is also increasing. Christians complain that gaining official sanction to build a mosque is easy while getting similar permission for churches is glacial. As a consequence, most Christian houses of worship are unofficial. “There is a real fear that Christianity is on the march,” says Mike Hilliard, a Scottish minister who with his Indonesian wife runs an orphanage outside Jakarta that has been targeted by militant Muslims. “Because of this fear, emotions are easily stirred up and mobs can form quickly.” (See pictures of colorful religious festivals.)

Defenders of faith have mobilized in neighboring Malaysia too. After a local court ruled on Dec. 31 that a Malaysian Christian newspaper could refer to the Christian deity as Allah, many Muslims, who constitute the multiethnic country’s majority, protested. Christians professed puzzlement: when speaking Malay, they had used the word Allah for centuries — why the sudden outrage now? Prominent Islamic activists responded by saying that sharing one word for two different gods could lead some Muslims to unwittingly stray to Christianity. By January, passions had spilled onto holy turf, with around a dozen churches, one mosque and a Sikh temple attacked. Late that month, eight people were arrested for suspected roles in the firebombing of a Pentecostal church in the capital of Kuala Lumpur.

As both Muslims and Christians more fervently express their faith, a kind of spiritual siloing is developing in Southeast Asia, in contrast to the sectarian mixing that often characterized relations in previous generations. “Even compared to five years ago, relations between Christians and Muslims have worsened,” says Father Andang Binawan, a Roman Catholic priest in Jakarta who holds a Ph.D. in theology from a Belgian university. “Many people now, including government officials, feel pressure by society to identify themselves as good Muslims and they worry that by associating with people of other religions, they will be seen as less pious. Even saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to a Christian can be seen as a problem.” (See “Indonesia Faces Muslim Pressure.”)

At the same time, aggressive proselytization by Evangelical groups, both foreign and local, leads to accusations that Christians are hungry for souls — and church donations. Website and sermon invectives, in which some Christian preachers dismiss Muslims as terrorists, also feed a prejudicial cycle that is spinning both sides away from Indonesia’s pluralistic underpinnings. (Unlike neighboring Malaysia, which was set up as a Muslim state — although one that guarantees minority religious rights — Indonesia recognizes six official faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism.) “We have many [religions], and they all coexist peacefully,” President Yudhoyono told TIME last November. “This is the capital we will use to show that a clash of civilizations can be prevented.” But even as he spoke, Christian theological students were staging a sit-in on a busy Jakarta street to protest having been intimidated into evacuating their campus after threats from Muslim mobs. A clash of civilizations seemed to be exactly what was taking place.

Raising Spirits
To get to the hip-hop concert, you have to walk through a five-star hotel’s lobby, go past a parking lot and take a cramped elevator ride to the 12th floor. There, in an anonymous Jakarta annex syncopated by a purple strobe light, Indonesian youths dance for Jesus. The congregation bops to the beat, waving their arms in the air as the lyrics implore them to let their “lives be a celebration” of Jesus’ love. After pastor Jose Carol takes to the stage, some worshippers whip out their iPhones, onto which they have loaded electronic copies of the Bible. Back when the Jakarta Praise Community Church formed a decade ago, only a couple hundred people attended its services; today the congregation has grown to 5,500 mostly young urbanites.

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A few hours earlier, in Jakarta’s Kemayoran business district, parishioners gathered in the main auditorium of the Evangelical Reformed Millennium Center, which seats more than 4,500 people. Above the crowds, a pair of giant TV screens broadcast the sermon of Stephen Tong, an Indonesian pastor who conducts weekly services throughout Asia — including Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong — and ministers to a regional congregation that has grown to 15,000 in just two decades. Opened in 2008, the church complex cost $30 million to build — and it took 17 years to obtain permission from local authorities. The privately funded church is the largest licensed one in the capital, although an unofficial megachurch with space for 10,000 faithful is nearing completion in a Jakarta suburb. When Tong, 69, raised a crucifix onto the church’s massive steeple, worshippers at a nearby mosque complained. Tong didn’t back down. “Jakarta has 1.2 million Christians, so a church for 4,000 people is nothing,” he says. “We did this all legally, so why can’t we put a cross on our church, just like mosques have their symbol?”

Other Indonesian Christians worry that such towering icons will only serve to inflame Muslim sentiment. The dangers are all too real. Take the hundreds of students from the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, who staged the November sit-in. They were subsisting in refugee-like conditions, sleeping on thin mats in an abandoned Jakarta building with no electricity or running water. Before that, the beleaguered students lived for months in a park, 35 to a tent. Yet on the outskirts of east Jakarta, the Christian college actually had a handsome campus. In July 2008, hundreds of Islamic extremists crowded the school’s gates, accusing students of proselytizing among the local Muslim community — a charge the institute’s leaders deny. When three students tried to escape, thugs threw acid in their faces. With local government officials advising the student population to decamp because of continuing danger, Arastamar officials had no choice but to accept the government’s proposal for makeshift housing. “How can you say there is true freedom of religion here if things like this can happen to us?” asks school principal Jusup Lifire. (See 10 surprising facts about the world’s oldest Bible.)

Muslim converts to Christianity are also targets, their apostasy viewed by some radical Islamic scholars as deserving of execution. Syaiful Hamzah grew up as the madrasah-attending son of a Muslim family in Jakarta that helped build the neighborhood mosque. But while working in eastern Indonesia’s Maluku archipelago, which has a substantial Christian population, he was swayed by Evangelical teachings. By 2000, he had been baptized at a Pentecostal church and returned to Jakarta to begin theological studies. His family cut him off; one brother threatened to burn his house down. Undeterred, he began lay-preaching to a house-church congregation in his modest home near Jakarta’s port. In 2008, a mob armed with clubs showed up and demanded Syaiful stop. He shuttered his church but still guides Muslim converts to Christianity, the number of which he says is growing, in part, because of the terror attacks unleashed in Indonesia in the name of Islam. “So many have converted,” he says, “but they are afraid to say so publicly because Muslims will harass them.”

The numbers of converts may not be as high as Islamic groups fear. Some so-called converts were Christians all along. In the 1960s, a government anticommunist drive forced each citizen to pick a religion for inclusion on their national ID card. (Suspected communists were quick to pick a religion to convince authorities they were not atheist Marxists.) Worried about future persecution and loath to give up the chance for certain career opportunities reserved for Muslims, some Christians chose Islam for their ID cards, even though they quietly kept going to church. Now they’re officially switching to their true religion, seeing safety in growing numbers. Another significant group of Indonesian converts to charismatic sects is ethnic Chinese. But they are abandoning Chinese religions or mainline Protestantism, not Islam. (See “Indonesia’s Fatwa Against Yoga.”)

still, it’s hard to ignore the power of a revival like the one held in Temanggung — and easy to understand why some Muslims have reservations about encroaching Christianity. Permission to hold the meeting was only granted after the organizers put up a sign forbidding Muslims from entering. Nevertheless, among the line of sick and suffering hoping to be healed was an elderly Muslim man who others said was blind. After fervent prayers from worshippers in the driving rain, he suddenly blinked and gazed at the gathered crowd. “A Muslim who can now see,” said pastor Jason Balompapueng, tears rising in his eyes. “It is a miracle.” The faithful urged the tottering man onstage to bear witness to his regained sight. As the man clambered up the stairs, he removed his peci, an Indonesian fezlike hat often associated with Islam. A visiting minister from Jakarta blessed him. Another soul was saved, the Christian pastor rejoiced. Tomorrow, he vowed, there would be more.

With reporting by Jason Tedjasukmana / Jakarta

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Bibles with ‘Allah’ are Confiscated

 http://www.latimes. com/news/ nationworld/ world/la- fg-briefs30- 2009oct30, 0,7232083. story

 
October 30, 2009
 
MALAYSIA

Bibles with ‘Allah’ are confiscated

Malaysian authorities have confiscated more than 15,000 Bibles because they referred to “God” as “Allah,” a translation that has been banned in this Muslim-majority country, Christian church officials said.

The Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said authorities seized a consignment of 10,000 copies sent from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Kuching, in Sarawak state, on Sept. 11 because the Indonesian-language Bibles contained the word “Allah.”

An additional 5,100 Bibles, also imported from Indonesia, were seized in March, said an official from the Bible Society of Malaysia.

A Home Ministry official said he was not aware of the seizures.

Church officials say “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam but is an Arabic word that predates Islam.

West Java: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

West Java.: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

http://www.charisma mag.com/index. php/news/ 23489-indonesia- church-wins- legal-battle- to-worship- in-building

Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in
their building in Depok City, West Java.

Depok Mayor Nur Mahmudi Ismail on March 27 had revoked the building
permit for a multipurpose building and house of worship for Gereja
Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church following protests by
Muslims. A court in Bandung on Sept. 17 rescinded the order that
revoked the church building permit, paving the way for congregants to
resume worship there.

Head Judge A. Syaifullah read the decision of the three-judge panel,
which found the mayor’s reasoning for canceling the building permit
inadequate. The mayor had said that most people living near the church
objected to its building in Jalan Pesanggrahan IV, Cinere Area of
Depok City.

“These objections by the local residents should have been raised when
the building permit was going through the approval process, not
protesting afterwards,” said Syaifullah.

Syaifullah added that the mayor also should have taken the views of
church members into consideration.

“In this case, the revocation of the building permit was based upon
the objections of one group in the community without considering those
from the church,” he said.

Construction of the church building had begun in 1998, shortly after
the permit was issued, but halted soon afterward due to a lack of
funds.
When the project began anew in 2007, members of a Muslim group from
the Cinere Area of Depok City and neighboring villages damaged the
boundary hedge and posted protest banners on the walls of the
building. Most of the protestors were not local residents.

The court determined that lawyers for the church successfully
demonstrated that church leaders had followed all Depok City
procedures for the building permit. Betty Sitompul, vice-chair of the
HKBP church building committee, stated that the church court win was a
victory for all Christians.

“We won because we had followed all the procedures and had completed
all the required documents,” she said.

In early June the church had filed suit against the mayor’s action in
a provincial court in Bandung, with church lawyer Junimart Girsang
arguing that the mayor’s revocation of the permit was wrong.

Girsang said that the court had finally sided with justice for all Indonesians.

“The judges made the right decision and had no choice, because all of
the papers for the permit were done properly,” he said.

The church had been meeting in a naval facility located about five
kilometers (nearly three miles) from the church building since the
permit was revoked, causing great inconvenience for church members,
many of whom did not have their own transportation.

In South Sumatra Province, another HKBP church outside the provincial
capital city of Palembang is trying to overcome objections by Muslim
protestors in order to complete construction of its building in Plaju.

Church leaders acknowledge they had not finished the application
process for a permit before beginning construction. They said they
went forward because after they applied to the mayor of Palembang, he
told them to talk with the governor of South Sumatra. After talking
with Gov. Alex Noerdin and securing his approval on Feb. 10, church
leaders began construction on a donated plot of 1,500 square meters
only to face a demonstration by members of several Muslim
organizations on June 27.

The South Sumatra Muslim Forum (FUI Sumsel) organized the
demonstration. Carrying a copy of a mayoral decree dated May 2009
ordering a halt to construction, the protestors gathered outside the
building site, listened to speeches and then destroyed a bridge
leading to it before demanding that the government ban the building
project.

Applications for church permits are often fraught with difficulty in
Indonesia, leaving many congregations no choice but to worship in
private homes, hotels or rented conference facilities. Such gatherings
leave churches open to threats and intimidation from activist groups
such as the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front), in recent
years responsible for the closure of many unregistered churches.

———— –

MEETING GOD

There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God.
He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase
with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer, and he started his journey.
When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman.
She was sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons.
The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase.
He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the
old lady looked hungry so he offered her a Twinkie.

He gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty
that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer.
Once again, she smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there
all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word. As it
grew dark, the boy
realized how tired he was and he got up to leave, but before he had
gone more than a few steps; he turned around, ran back to the old
woman, and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later; his
mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him,
“What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had
lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “You
know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home.
Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked,
“Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?” She replied,
“I ate Twinkies in the park with God.” But before her son responded,
she added, “You know he’s much younger than I expected.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word,
a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around. People come
into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

Source: NN

Indonesia Papua:More religions, more trouble

Indonesian Papua  

More religions, more trouble

Jul 17th 2008 | JAKARTA
From The Economist print edition

 


THE separatist conflict in Indonesia’s Papua region—formerly known as Irian Jaya and once one of the world’s great liberal causes—has become relatively quiet in recent years. Small groups of protesters still occasionally gather to wave the Morning Star independence flag and get arrested for it. But decades of repression by the Indonesian security forces, combined with the granting in 2000 of partial autonomy from Jakarta, have sapped the separatists’ ranks. However, according to a recent report on the region, there is a risk that the separatist conflict may be rekindled or replaced by religious strife because of the arrival of new and more muscular forms of both Islam and Christianity.

 

 

 

 

 

Broadly speaking, indigenous Papuans—who are dark-skinned Melanesians, like their kin next door in Papua New Guinea and Australian aborigines—tend to be Christians or animists, whereas the many migrants to the region from elsewhere in Indonesia are mostly Muslim. In recent years fundamentalist Christian groups, some started by American and Canadian preachers, have been proselytising among indigenous Papuans. Their success has also prompted the development of fundamentalist streams in the established Protestant churches.

Among the Islamic radical groups to arrive in Papua with the migrants is the Indonesian chapter of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organisation started in Jerusalem, which seeks to unite Muslims worldwide under one government or “caliphate”. But there are also a few indigenous Papuan Muslims, some of whom have recently returned from studies in the Middle East, bringing back fundamentalist ideas.

The report, by the International Crisis Group (ICG), a think-tank, says rising religious tension has already come close to triggering violence between Muslims and Christians, as is already common in the nearby, mixed-faith province of Maluku. In Kaimana district, for example, members of the two religions had long lived together harmoniously. But in December locals came close to blows over the erection of an iron tower shaped like a Christmas tree, topped with a Star of David—often used by charismatic Christian groups but best known as a symbol of Judaism.

The new Christian groups have raised Muslims’ hackles by boasting (sometimes falsely) of their conversions of Muslims. Muslims, in turn, have become increasingly vigilant against any perceived threats either to their faith or to Indonesian sovereignty. Some Islamic radicals are prone to conspiracy theories about plots to prise Papua away from Indonesia, often involving America and its majority-Christian regional allies, Australia and the Philippines.

Increased fundamentalism has sharpened each ethnic group’s fear of domination by the other. The Indonesian government has discontinued its programme of transportation to Papua and elsewhere to relieve overcrowding on Java. But migrants are still flooding in. Official figures show that in 2004 Muslims were 23% of the region’s 2m-odd population, up from 6.5% in 1964. In reality the proportion of Muslims is thought to be much higher, probably over half now—but the government has not published accurate updated figures.

Christians believe this is a cover-up to hide the truth: that migration has made Papuans a minority in their homeland. They also fear that the government in Jakarta is increasingly endorsing Islamic orthodoxy at the expense of Indonesia’s non-Muslims. The Muslims, in turn, agree that they are now the majority in Papua—a local Hizb-ut-Tahrir leader recently claimed that Papua is 65% Muslim—but they feel that Papuan autonomy could lead to them being discriminated against or even expelled from the region.

There are some moderating influences: last year, mainstream Muslims set up a new body, the Papuan Muslim Council, to put the case for tolerance. Some of the charismatic Christian groups, far from inciting separatism among ethnic Papuans, argue for accommodation with the Indonesian powers-that- be (render unto Caesar and all that). Even so, argues the ICG, there is a danger that continuing migration, combined with the radicalisation of both main religions, could re-ignite the dormant separatist conflict.

If the heightened religious tension is not to become a catalyst for violence it would help if there was a sense of urgency about improving the dismal quality of life of almost all Papuans, whether indigenous or migrants. Autonomy has had a feeble start: central-government ministries have been reluctant to cede control to local Papuan authorities; where they have, money has been misspent, including by newly recruited Papuan bureaucrats struggling with responsibilities for which they lack skills. Last year President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered his officials to speed up development programmes for Papua. As usual, his orders fell on deaf ears.