Added Security for Indonesian Churches Ahead of Christmas

A recent series of attacks aimed at churches has prompted Indonesian National Police to employ heightened security measures for the Christmas and New Year holidays, police spokesman Iskandar Hasan told reporters on Wednesday.

The statement followed an incident on the same day when shots were fired through the windows of the Muria Christian Church, a member of the Mennonite World Conference, in the city of Surakarta, Central Java.

Not far from the area, two homemade bombs were also discovered near churches. One exploded without casualties, and the other was found and defused.

On Tuesday, Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Jesus The King Catholic Church, damaging the church's wall.

Despite no major injury or damaged reported, authorities plan to act to protect Christians against the risk of violence, while preventing the possibility of a terrorist attack by assigning more security personnel around churches and popular tourists sites.

"The national police chief has ordered all police personnel across the country to coordinate with churches and local administrations to take preventive measures," said Hasan.

The escalating violence does not come as a surprise as extremists have, in the past, stirred up conflict between Muslims and Christians leading up to the Christmas season.

Indonesia has the largest Islamic population in the world. Eighty-eight percent of the population of 238 million is Muslim. Protestants and Catholics make up 9 percent of the population. While the constitution provides for religious freedom, Christians continue to experience discrimination and are regularly prevented from worshipping, and Islamists have used legal means to close dozens of churches.

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