JAKARTA, Indonesia (Compass Direct News) – Hundreds of people calling themselves the Muslim Community of the Puncak Route last week burned buildings under construction belonging to a Christian organization in West Java Province.
Believing that a church or school building was being built, the mob set fire to the Penabur Christian Education Foundation’s unfinished guest house buildings in Cibeureum village of Cisarua sub-district, Bogor Regency, on April 27. They also burned a watchman’s hut and at least two cars belonging to foundation directors.
A leader of the mob who identified himself only as Tabroni told Compass that local residents did not want a Christian worship center or Christian school in the predominantly Muslim area of Cibeureum known as Kongsi.
“We found that there is an effort to Christianize through the construction of a school and a Christian place of worship,” Tabroni said. He claimed that the foundation had broken a promise to build only a guest house, not a school and a place of worship.
A foundation spokesperson identified only as Mulyono denied that it was building a school or a place of worship. Mulyono added that the guest house, a term synonymous with “conference center” in Indonesia, will be used for education and training.
“It is not true that we were building a school or a place of worship,” Mulyono told Compass.
The spokesperson said the foundation had received building permits in June of 2009. An official identified only as Nuryadi of the Bogor Regency office confirmed that all of permits for a guest house and use of the land had been granted in June 2009.
The mob destroyed buildings being constructed on 2.5 hectares (6.18 acres) of land.
A consultant said the Penabur foundation has been building Icharius Guest House since February and had expected to see it completed in August.
Suspicions that a Christian school and a place of worship were being built started almost immediately, as a worship service accompanied the laying of the cornerstone.
Cisarua District Officer Bambang Usada said this led to misunderstanding.
“We had agreed that a guest house was to be built,” he said. “Maybe they though it was going to be a church.”
Bogor Police Chief Tomex Kurniawan agreed, saying local residents were never satisfied with explanations of the buildings’ purposes. Penabur officials had explained that there would be no house of worship and that a guest house was being constructed with permission of the Bogor government.
“We had mediation meetings, but the people were never satisfied,” Kurniawan said. “We are now digging for more information for our investigation. There have been property losses, and someone is responsible.”
Dissatisfaction and the attendant religious intolerance among local residents were evident. The local block captain, who identified himself only as Rahmat, said he never accepted that district and regency officials had granted permission for the building.
“They were not building a guest house, but a place of worship,” Rahmat told Compass.
At press time police had no suspects for the attack. They have gathered information from 14 people, including construction workers, and they are guarding the building site against further incidents.
Construction has been suspended, also as a precautionary measure.
“We are waiting for a more conducive atmosphere,” Mulyono said.
The Penabur Foundation was founded in 1952 under the name the West Java Chinese Kie Tok Kauw Hwee Education Foundation. On March 21, 1989, the name was changed to the Penabur Christian Education Foundation. It runs approximately 60 schools across Indonesia.