Christian Theological School Attacked by Muslim Militants in Indonesia

A Christian theological school has been attacked by a group of Muslim militants in east Jakarta, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology (SETIA), which was established in 1987, is one of the biggest Evangelical theology schools in Indonesia. The school was attacked on 8 March 2007, and the following Saturday, over 200 militants besieged the school for three hours, shouting threats and demanding the closure of the school.

In the attack some of the outlying ventilation buildings of the new dormitory were burned down and the attackers threatened to bring a crowd of 1000 militants to close the school down on Saturday 11 March, CSW has said. The Islamist militant groups Front Pembela Islam (FPI) and FBR are believed to be behind the attack.

Reports explain that the school was besieged by over 200 militants for three hours from 9.30am. The crowd shouted threats and demanding the closure of the school. Indonesian police reportedly sent a detachment of some 400 police officers in order to prevent the mob from further attacking the school.

FPI claimed that the school is illegal despite the fact that SETIA has official permits both for the existing buildings and the new dormitory. FPI has a reputation for violent demonstrations and attacks but in the past they primarily targeted nightclubs and restaurants serving alcohol during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, CSW has reported.

SETIA's vice-principal, Juwanto, stated: "This is now a common occurrence in Indonesia. SETIA has all the necessary permits but it does not matter. The demonstration is mainly by outsiders not local community. But today the government showed that it cares about the situation. We do not know if this group will return. We need to pay attention to security and pray to the Lord."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, says: "This incident is deeply concerning as it took place in the capital rather than one of the regions which has experienced problems before. It also targeted a well established institute with all the official permits. We are pleased the Indonesian authorities deployed police to quell this attack, but they must now send a clear signal to the militants that attacks of this nature will not be tolerated."