APSN Banner

Mobs pelt churches on eve of Ramadan

Agence France Presse - December 21, 1998 (abridged)

Jakarta – A mob of more than 1,000 people attacked three churches, a Catholic school, a clinic and scores of houses near here on the eve of the Moslem fasting month, a report said Monday.

The mob first attacked some 30 houses in the Harapan Baru residential area in Bekasi, some 18 kilometres east of Jakarta late on Saturday, pelting them with stones, the Indonesian Observer said. The crowd, who were shouting "fire, fire" then attacked the Saint Albertus Catholic church there, breaking window panes and the entrance gate. But hundreds of police and military personnel arrived and prevented them from inflicting further damage.

The mob then moved to a Protestant church some 200 metres (yards) away, also pelting it with stones, before attacking another Protestant church in the neighouring area of Pondok Ungu, the Observer said. They also attacked the Flora Catholic school and a private clinic there, smashing doors and windows.

The Bekasi police chief, the only person authorized to issue detailed information, was not reachable early Monday. His staff said he had gone to report the incidents to the Jakarta police headquarters. Jakarta's police spokesman was also in a meeting with the Jakarta police chief, his staff at police headquarters said.

The reason for the attack was unknown but a church warden at Saint Albertus speculated it might have been related to the US and British attacks on Iraq.

The air strikes took place as government and religious leaders, including Moslems, called for respect for other religions and their places of worship, especially during the Moslem fasting month of Ramadan that started on Sunday.

Meanwhile, reports from Samarinda, the capital of the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan on Borneo island, said an angry mob burned a car and two motorbikes belonging to traffic control police Saturday night.

The mob action was triggered by anger over the death of an 18- year-old in a police chase in Loa Janan near Samarinda, several hours earlier, and the failure of the police to move the body for more than two hours, the Media Indonesia daily said.

Samarinda police chief Lieutenant Colonel Tommy said the victim, a suspected criminal, had been hit by a bus when fleeing on a motorbike from a policeman who approached him. The East Kalimantan mobile brigade and security personnel from the local military police were deployed to quell the riot, media reports said.