Indonesia must become a ‘common house’ for all faiths

Addressing the Central Committee meeting of the World Council of Churches today, the Rev Dr Margaretha Hendriks-Ririmasse said the conditions for Christians had changed for the worse since Western countries waged their war on terror.

“Since then, groups of hardliners [have] started to form especially within the Muslim communities and it is from this group that the churches in Indonesia face their biggest challenges,” she said.

Mrs Hendriks-Ririmasse, a member of the Protestant Church of Maluku (Gereja Protestan Maluku, GPM), said the assumption among the extremists was that Christianity was an agent of the Western powers and that Christians therefore deserved to be destroyed.

“Currently attacks directed towards Christian communities and church buildings are becoming more frequent and fierce,” she said.

“Christianity is identified with Western countries and that is why we deserve to be destroyed, because the US and Western powers are out to destroy the Muslims so they have to take vengeance against that.”

Mrs Hendriks-Ririmasse said the situation had been made worse by the “aggressive” evangelisation strategies of some Christian groups present in the country.

She voiced particular concern over the “triumphant theology” displayed by some groups “which looks down towards other religions, including Muslims, and makes them the object of their evangelisation”.

“All these things come together and make us the target of attack,” she said.

Last week, three churches in Temanggung, Central Java, were badly damaged by a mob of extremists angry over the five-year prison sentence handed to a Christian man found guilty of blasphemy. They considered the sentence to be too lenient.

Mrs Hendriks-Ririmasse said it was fortunate for Christians in Indonesia that not all Muslims share the same sentiments as the extremists.

She said there were many moderate Muslims who were cooperating with churches to build relationships of mutual trust and respect.

“Many signs of hope from such efforts are emerging and one of them is the solidarity shown by our Muslim sisters and brothers towards the Christians who suffer attacks from these hardliners,” she said.

“Many of them speak out very boldly against these forms of violations and even join in the protests against [them].”

She said that the inter-religious relations had made Indonesian churches more aware of the need to work together with people of other faiths in building ‘oikos’, the ancient Greek word for ‘household’.

“We now realise Indonesia should be a common house, not only for one religion but the common house for all despite the differences in our beliefs,” she said.

“We need to work together, joining hands to make our country and our world a common house for all of us, a house where human dignity is upheld and justice is made manifest.”