What's happening in Indonesia isn't helping me maintain that assumption.
For 20 years, students the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology in Jakarta have been praying and singing hymns. What news services call 'hard line' Muslims, naturally, don't approve. They feel that it's proselytizing. They say.
So, the Muslims used bamboo spears and Molotov cocktails to drive the Christians out.
Indonesia's reputation for tolerance isn't entirely gone. The Christians were allowed to live, and even permitted to move into a small office building on the other side of the Indonesian capital.
Those Thieving, Singing, Burglarizing ChristiansWell, singing, anyway.
From one point of view, the Christians must be at fault. After an attack on the Christians on June 26, 2008, east Jakarta district chief, Murdani, blamed the Christians for the raid, saying that both "warring" parties should stay calm.
Besides, there was a rumor that one of those Christian students stole a motorcycle from a neighboring village.
A July 25, 2008, attack began when stones fell on the school's dormitory roof. At the same time a voice on a nearby mosque's loudspeaker cried "Allah Akbar." "God is great" in Arabic.) It's hard to shake the notion that the Allah Akbar/incoming rocks was more than mere coincidence.
This time, the rumor was that a Christian student had broken into a residence. Police dismissed the accusation, but the Akbar bunch didn't.
Making Nice with Radical Islam, and Leaning on Property OwnersThere's a possibility that recent attacks on the school were more about economics than religion. Someone made the school an offer to move out, and the school refused.
It's not hard for me to see the attacks as an 'offer they couldn't refuse.' Particularly since the school can be torn down now.
A few years ago, locals had burned construction shelters, when the school tried to build on new land. More land for the school meant less land for the Muslims, so naturally someone torched the construction equipment. Makes sense, in a lawless sort of way.
There doesn't seem to have been much done about whoever forced the school out. Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology's chairman, the Rev. Matheus Mangentang, said, "Why should we be forced from our house while our attackers can walk freely?"
Part of the answer may be that there's an election coming up. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government doesn't want to seem anti-Islamic, by treating attacks on Christians and other minorities as crimes.
A Jesuit priest, Prof. Franz Magnis-Suseno, has lived in Indonesia for a half-century. "People are still tolerant, but there is a growing suspicion among Muslims of others," adding that police haven't prevented attacks on minorities, and forced closures of both Christian churches and nontraditional mosques. "The state has some responsibility for this growing intolerance, namely by not upholding the law," he said.
Equal-Opportunity BigotsMuslims have burned several mosques of the Muslim sect Ahmadiyah. The firebugs feel that the Ahmadiyah sect is heretical.
Indonesia has been a good example of how a largely Islamic nation can tolerate diversity and freedom. I sincerely hope that the country does not begin running its affairs along "Islamic" lines, as Saudi Arabia does.
Indonesia intolerance in the news:
- "Attack forces Indonesian Christians off campus"
Associated Press (August 22, 2008)
- "Indonesia's Growing Intolerance of Christians"
DigitalJournal.com (August 22, 2008)
- "Christian students driven out by Muslims find refuge in parliament"
AsiaNews.it (July 31, 2008)
- "Muslims storm Protestant school in Jakarta, scores of students injured"
AsiaNews.it (July 28, 2008)