Jakarta. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday condemned an armed attack on Christian church leaders in Bekasi and called on police to solve the case as quickly as possible.
He said Sunday’s knife attack by unknown assailants, which left one church elder badly injured and a priest with head wounds, was a highly sensitive matter for the mainly Muslim archipelago.
“There is no space for violence from and against anyone for any reason, especially over the sensitive issue of inter-religious community relationships in our country,” he told reporters. “I have ordered the police to find the attackers and to prosecute them according to our law.”
He made his comments after meeting the security minister and police chief, amid complaints that the authorities have failed to prevent persistent attacks on the Protestant church group by Muslim extremists.
Police however continued to refuse to link the attack to well-known tensions between Muslims and Christians in Bekasi outside Jakarta, even as they announced that nine people had been arrested.
“There were indications of religious conflict but we prefer not to link it for the time being as our investigation is still ongoing,” police spokesman Marwoto Soeto said. “We don’t yet know the motives of the perpetrators or their religion.”
Witnesses said the attackers were wearing Muslim garb and Yudhoyono clearly linked the assault to religious discord over the Christians’ requests to establish a place of worship in the mainly Muslim area.
He called on the relevant authorities to “immediately” find a solution to the “conflict related to the place of worship.”
Eighty percent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslims but the country’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
Human rights groups say religious violence has been on the rise in recent months, mainly by Muslims against minority groups including Christians.