Opinion: "Muslims Guard Jakarta’s Christians"

December 26, 2005

Source: etaiwannews.com/The Christian Science Monitor


On December 26, 2005 The Christian Science Monitor ran an article by columnist Tom McCawley. He writes, "As church congregations offer up Christmas prayers here this weekend, thousands of Muslims will help keep the peace, standing guard outside. After warnings of terrorist attacks over Christmas, police stepped up security, deploying over 17,000 officers in Jakarta, two-thirds of the city's force. Joining them in protecting hundreds of churches are some 7,000 guards from 11 different Islam-linked organizations. Police are hoping 'Operation Candle,' which will run from December 24 to January 3, will be a symbol of goodwill between Christianity and Islam, ending a year that has seen many tests of Indonesia's religious harmony. It's part of a bid by authorities to move beyond physical security to include an ideological campaign against violent strains of Islam. 'Having Muslims and Christians work together for security, the authorities are hoping to show that pluralism is still strong,' says Sri Yunanto, an Indonesian expert on radical Islamist groups. Both Muslims leaders and police say they are trying to avoid a repeat of Christmas Eve five years ago, when 29 churches were bombed in an attack blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, a group that has been linked to al-Qaida. 'We want to show we respect Christianity,' says Irwan Arsidi, secretary of the Islamic Defender's Front (FPI), a hard-line vigilante group. 'Besides,' he grumbled, 'we don't want to get blamed for any explosions.'"