Indonesian Islamist mob hurls bags of urine at Christians

Jakarta, Indonesia - A mob of 600 Islamic hardliners threw plastic bags filled with urine at an Indonesian church congregation celebrating the ascension of Christ, a lawyer said on Friday.

The attack, during which stones and dirt were also hurled, occurred on Thursday as around 100 Christians prepared to hold a service at a church in Bekasi, a city on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta.

Members of the Philadelphia Batak Christian Protestant Church have been targeted several times in recent years.

“They attacked when the priest started to speak to the congregation. A crowd of 600 people threw bags of urine and dirty water as they tried to push police,” a lawyer for the church, Judianto Simanjuntak, told AFP.

“Police didn’t even try to disperse the crowd, so they were open to attack us.”

National police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution confirmed there was an incident and that “an investigation has started, although no one has been arrested”.

In 2009, the local administration ordered the church be shut down, but a provincial court overruled the decision, which was also upheld by the Supreme Court last year.

Several other churches in Bekasi have suffered attacks in recent years, the worst leaving a priest badly bashed and an elderly leader stabbed during a Sunday service in 2010.

Simanjuntak said that groups of Islamic hardliners had intimidated Christians in Bekasi several times this month and that leaders of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) had been spotted among them.

There has been more criticism this week that hardliners are wielding too much power in the country after the police Tuesday refused US pop singer Lady Gaga a permit to perform in Jakarta.

The FPI, which has carried out mob attacks in recent years on Islamic minority groups and Christians, promised chaos if the provocative performer entered the country.

Police also shut down several events held by Canadian writer Irshad Manji after the FPI held violent protests condemning Manji’s liberal views on Islam as well as her homosexuality.

Ninety percent of Indonesia’s population of 240 million identify themselves as Muslim but the vast majority practice a moderate form of Islam.