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Indonesia's Growing Intolerance of Christians

By Gar Swaffar     Aug 22, 2008 in World
A Christian school in Indonesia, the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology has chosen to yield to demands it move its campus away from the neighborhood from which attacks have been coming.
The evangelical school and its students have been under attack by Muslim neighbors who complain about the students praying and the hymns being sung by the students. The charges against the students have been both legal, with the Muslim neighbors stating the hymns and praying amounts to proselytizing, and also physical.
The evangelical students were attacked by Muslim neighbors using bamboo spears and Molotov cocktails.
Indonesia has a history of religious tolerance, but has lately been seeing increased pressure from hard line Islamic groups who are demanding and receiving preferential treatment from the government.
In talks since the attack, the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology has reluctantly agreed to shut its 20-year-old campus in east Jakarta, accepting an offer this week to move to a small office building on the other side of the Indonesian capital.
"Why should we be forced from our house while our attackers can walk freely?" asked the Rev. Matheus Mangentang, chairman of the 1,400-student school.
Several neighbors refused to comment, saying they feared that could further strain relations. A prominent banner, signed by scores of people, has been hung over an entrance to the neighborhood.
"We the community of Kampung Pulo demand the campus be closed and dissolved," it says.
The problems are not new issues though, in 2003 protests began against the school and last year construction worker shelters were set ablaze to stop the expansion of the campus.
Nearly 600 women students have been living under tarps at a close by scout camp since the attack.
"We feel like refugees in our own country," said Dessy Nope, 19, a second-year student majoring in education. "How can you study here? I only followed 20 percent of my last lesson. It's difficult to concentrate."
The vaunted tolerance of Indonesia for religions of all types is under attack and the outcome, with elections coming up soon are all too easy to predict.
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