JAKARTA (AFP) â€“ June 6, 2007. Muslim hardliners stormed a church in Indonesia during services, smashing images of Jesus Christ and demanding that it be closed down, the pastor said on Monday.
Dozens of churches have had to be closed in the Muslim-majority country in recent years, and Sunday`s attack was the second on the small Protestant church in the West Java town of Soreang since 2005.
Reverend Robby Elisa, who heads the church, said around 100 hardliners attacked while Sunday school was in session. He said his wife was beaten and that at least four stained glass depictions of Jesus were smashed.
"They came and forced their way into the church," he said. "The attackers claimed to be from the Anti-Apostate Movement Alliance. The same group had already attacked the church in 2005."
The secretary of the church`s headquarters in Jakarta, Reverend Budi Setiawan, said that the attack had been reported to the Indonesian Church Association (PGI).
West Java, where Islam is strong, has seen a series of attacks on churches to force their closure.
The Jakarta Post newspaper said that more than 30 churches have had to close their door in West Java since 2004 because of attacks by Muslim hardliners. Dozens of churches have also been forced to close in other provinces, it said.
According to a current decree by the religious affairs ministry, houses of worship must obtain the approval of at least 60 percent of local residents and have at least 90 followers to be able to operated.
Elisa said that his church was small and only had a congregation of some 20 adults and 40 children and teenagers.
"Where else can we go? We are too far from the city and our congregation needs a place to worship," Elisa said.
The district police chief could not be immediately reached for comment, and the officer on duty at the district police declined to comment.