Hundreds to worship outside churches amid tight security

| December 24, 2009

Fifteen police officers backed up by soldiers and local residents will guard every church across West Java during Christmas celebrations to prevent possible attacks, police said.

Dozens of churches in the province have closed since 2004 after being stormed or attacked by hard-line Muslim mobs. In 2000, militants bombed churches across the archipelago on Christmas Eve.

This week in Bandung, West Java, many Christians won’t be able to celebrate Christmas in a church because they were denied permits to build their places of worship.

West Java Church Federation (BKSG) leader John Simon Timorason said Wednesday the biggest obstacle was applying for a building permit to build a church, so local Christians eventually opted
to hold Christmas prayers in shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, shops and homes.

He said more than 60 percent of the 1,920 churches in West Java were built without permits
because of difficulties in obtaining permits. Only 15 percent of churches have permanent buildings and have permits.

“We face difficulties obtaining permits. Those equipped with permits, such as the churches in Purwakarta, Bekasi and Depok, had their permits revoked due to pressure from intolerant groups,” Simon told The Jakarta Post.

Last year, 77 families from the Pasundan Christian Church in Dayeuhkolot, Bandung, who were holding prayers at their preacher’s house were evicted by a mob.

Church caretaker Ranto Gunawan Simamora said, fearing violence, they had to hold mass in a chapel at the Immanuel Hospital on Jl. Kopo, Bandung.

West Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Timur Pradopo said more than 10,000 personnel would provide security for Christmas mass in churches and other locations throughout the province.

Timur said the police would also secure public places, such as shopping malls, hotels and tourist sites as part of Operation Lilin-Lodaya that starts Dec. 24 and runs for 10 days.

In Semarang, Central Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Alex Bambang Riatmojo said more than 11,000 police personnel, 1,246 military soldiers, 990 public order police officers, 907 transportation agency officials and 604 health agency officials would provide security for the Christmas and New Year holidays in the province.

“We will ensure safety at every church as well as public places and tourist sites. We want Christians
to celebrate Christmas this year in a solemn and peaceful manner,” he said.

Alex said he would not tolerate those looking to incite violence.

To thwart the possibility of terror threats, Alex urged members of the public to also maintain security by reporting to police any suspicious activities in their neighborhood.

“The police cannot work alone. We need help from the community,” he said.


Category: Church Security

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