Indonesian Christians, Muslims face terror threat together

Indonesian police are mobilising to shield the Christian minority from a Christmas and New Year holiday terror threat.

By Aditya Surya for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

December 21, 2013
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As Indonesian authorities beef up security to counter a purported Christmastime terror threat against the country's Christians, leaders from that religious minority and other faiths call on citizens to be vigilant and united.

  • Children attend church in Banda Aceh on December 18th. Indonesian Christians are preparing for Christmas in the shadow of a warning from police that Islamic extremists may target worshippers at Christmas and New Year celebrations in Jakarta and other parts of the country. [Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP]

    Children attend church in Banda Aceh on December 18th. Indonesian Christians are preparing for Christmas in the shadow of a warning from police that Islamic extremists may target worshippers at Christmas and New Year celebrations in Jakarta and other parts of the country. [Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP]

"I think we should be aware that there will be possible parties, who will use religion in their violent actions," Muslim cleric Toriq Bahharaddin said. "That's their tactic to divide us."

Particular faiths should not be blamed should an attack on a church, mosque or other place of worship occur during the yuletide and New Year season, he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Nonetheless, all Indonesian Christians should be on guard for a possible attack, according to a pastor at Bethany Church in Jakarta.

"We will continue to look after each other. We will work with other fellow citizens in case of any attacks. Hopefully, we will have a peaceful Christmas this year," Pastor Yance Mamesakh told Khabar.

A public warning

Indonesia has been on a heightened security alert since December 12th when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a public warning about a possible extremist plot to attack Christian worshippers during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

"Law enforcement agencies and security personnel must work harder to anticipate the possibilities," Yudhoyono told reporters.

He warned all citizens – particularly those in conflict-prone regions, such as Central Sulawesi, South Sumatra, West and East Java, as well as Jakarta – to be vigilant. The president also voiced concern that extremists were taking advantage of the Christian holiday and approaching 2014 elections to execute a terror plot.

"We have been monitoring many designated regions to make sure that everything is clear. We will take any action, when and if necessary," newly appointed National Police Chief Sutarman told Khabar on Sunday (December 15th).

On Monday, Sutarman told a House of Representatives (DPR) hearing his department was mobilising 87,000 police as a response to the threat.

His force's main priority, Sutarman told Indonesian lawmakers, was to foil "disruptions to Christmas and New Year celebrations".

Scrambling into action

As the force mobilised to counter the threat, police arrested several suspected members of Indonesian terrorist cells.

On Sunday, the police's elite Detachment 88 nabbed three suspected terrorists in related cases in Bekasi and Lamongan. Also that day in a separate case, police arrested a suspected terrorist allegedly involved in the August 4th bombing of the Ekayana Buddhist Centre in Jakarta.

And on Monday (December 16th), Detachment 88 arrested another man suspected of receiving Rp 47 billion ($3.8m) from the Abu Roban terror group to recruit terrorist operatives for military training in Poso, Central Sulawesi.

Despite the security mobilisation, Jakarta residents expressed fears about the terror threat.

"I think this year will be more complicated. We are not only dealing with the possible attacks during Christmas but also the election," 38-year-old Central Jakarta resident and Christian Melinda Christianti told Khabar. "Any irresponsible parties can use the attacks to provoke political tensions among political parties and use it for their own benefit."

Reader Comments
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    • asamson
      January 4, 2014 @ 08:01:17AM
    • Muslims and Christians live in a country with a culture and history rooted in Islam, that is observant and tolerant. For example, the tower of Kudus is a testament to how Muslims can be tolerant towards Christians who live in its vicinity and also around Sunan Ampe in Surabaya, etc. Why be fearful? This means that there is something wrong within them, perhaps denying or betraying their religion by committing acts forbidden by religion and straying away from its commandments. Do not blow things out of proportion.
    • mhmd rosli
      January 3, 2014 @ 10:01:23PM
    • There is nothing interesting in this comment. Old news. People seeking justice are being called terrorists, a government rife with corruption is being exalted. No religions are blessed other than Islam, from Adam to Muhammad SAW. Remember and seek the truth, Christians, you have been tricked by the cursed Jews.
    • Mc.aMrin cHibRoE
      December 29, 2013 @ 03:12:07AM
    • The truth is that the actions of society, whether by small groups or large in the form of organizations are egregious mistakes made by the nation and its officials, who apparently stand idly by, not having the sensitivity to respond to issues before they become major problems. Therefore, the people are forced to take action and when they do, it is deemed in violation of laws, order and peace. Once again the country and its officials can stand back as if bearing no sins, blaming the people.
    • Jimi Roy
      December 28, 2013 @ 10:12:44AM
    • Remember that truth (Al-Haq) belongs to God and never shall it be tarnished by the hands of wicked humans for all will be judged before Him. God has created man to be balanced in all things, uphold and correct this balance, do not destroy it. If you wish to be called human then be a human who is loved by God, discard all prejudice towards one another so as to calm our hearts; the way to controlling our emotions can be shown by God Almighty. Animals do not know who they are, the law of the jungle prevails and law for peace is not recognized (preying on each other) and only those who are akin to animals would devour their prey. Christmas and New Years were indeed created by the Christians and Christians are indeed our brothers and sisters too. Let us show them respect for peace in this world. There is no use in being enemies, it will cost us in this world and in the next. Open your eyes. The Messianic year was created by Christians.
    • Kungroy
      December 27, 2013 @ 07:12:54PM
    • The news should try to be unbiased.
    • imam suherlan
      December 26, 2013 @ 04:12:11PM
    • Public liars, baseless issues, engineered terror.
    • supriyanto
      December 26, 2013 @ 09:12:47AM
    • Too excessive and misleading.
    • rakim
      December 24, 2013 @ 08:12:13PM
    • I agree, it follows the example of Prophet SAW.
    • morganbunit
      December 24, 2013 @ 07:12:05AM
    • There are no problems among us We are all God's people... Do not harbor hatred, vengeance, and spite towards fellow human beings.
    • faridah bte atan
      December 23, 2013 @ 06:12:48PM
    • Truth belongs to everyone.
    • sagimansakiyo
      December 23, 2013 @ 06:12:34PM
    • The POLRI General takes a tone that challenges terrorists, what needs to develope is the readiness to face security issues. Do this covertly, what we need to strive for is sophisticated intelligence. There is no statements necessary but the Indonesian Police should be able to foil destructive efforts. Do not make enemies but strengthen problem solving. It may be full of bluster but possess many weaknesses. Programs announced seem to seek out rivalry. Security belongs to us all, calls for security synergy is more important than citing threats that may not happen. They need to show a stance that is not arrogant, bearing no messages from sponsors, and do not prideful. Allow security to become a common need by fostering an atmosphere of friendship. Of course there should not be any nepotism and a positive character, have we achieved this? We should respond with actions.
    • warseno
      December 23, 2013 @ 05:12:25AM
    • We want updated information.
    • koncreng masry
      December 21, 2013 @ 05:12:23AM
    • I commend the firm stance taken by officials and the government that protect minority groups. We need to remember that the majority of Muslims want to live in peace with other religions. The presence of FPI and other radical Islamic organizations are disrupting religious harmony in Indonesia. In other regions of Indonesia where Muslims are the minority, they are never harassed when it comes to worship or constructing mosques. Meanwhile, it is as though the government and the police are turning a blind eye to actions that have been disrupting religious peace for decades.
    • jesus bego
      January 16, 2014 @ 07:01:42AM
    • Do you have the heart to see your God stuck on a clothesline? Oh, my mistake, I meant stuck on a cross.

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