Dozens of people were killed in bomb attacks on churches in Nigeria and Kenya last week. Radical Islamic organisations claimed responsibility. Violence between Christians and Muslims in Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan also regularly make the news. Can political pressure persuade governments to take more protective measures?
Dwiti Nopita Rini is a member of a Christian community in Bogor, West Java. She says Indonesian Christians are increasingly being targeted by radical Muslims. Under pressure from the Islamic Defence Front (FPI), the mayor of Bogor shut the church in 2010. The FPI has become more influential since the fall of Suharto in 1998. Under the dictatorship radical parties were suppressed.
Figures published by the Setara Institute, a human rights organisation in Jakarta, show that violence against Christian is increasing. There were 12 incident in 2009, a year later there were 75. Churches have been burned and Christians threatened.
Dwiti Nopita Rini says: “You don’t feel safe. Even our lawyer – a Muslim – has been threatened for helping the Christian community.”
The Christians in Bogor have turned to lobbying. “We have the support of people in the Democratic Party, the biggest political party in Indonesia. The Supreme Court has ruled that the church must be opened again, but the mayor is stubborn.”
Blame the Copts
Stefan* works for Open Doors, an international Christian organisations which supports persecuted Christians around the world. Open Doors distributes Bibles, visits Christians in jail and tries to provide financial help if they lose their jobs. Stefan says the Arab Spring has worsened the situation of Christian in the Middle East.
“It’s cyclical. Under Mubarak the Coptic church was protected to some extent, but that protection has now more or less vanished.”
In October, 200 Egyptian Copts demonstrated for better protection. Soldiers opened fire on them, killing 25 people and injuring 200. “The state media blamed the Copts, but thankfully other Arabic news stations like al-Arabiya corrected that view. That’s progress.”
He says political pressure from Western countries is desperately needed and praises Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal for calling on his Egyptian counterpart to offer the Copts better protection against persecution. Mohamed Kamel Amr promised an investigation into the violence against Copts.
Source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide | Hagar Jobse & Klaas den Tek