Muslims to guard Churches on Christmas
Indonesian Muslims to Guard Churches on Christmas
Indonesians in Jakarta, ahead of Christmas celebrations.(Reuters)
JAKARTA, December 9, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – Muslim volunteers in Indonesia will guard churches on Christmas Eve after warnings of attacks on the religious places during the holiday season, a Muslim group said Friday, December 9.
Members of a youth wing – Banser group -- affiliated with Indonesia's largest Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) will be posted to churches across the world's largest Muslim-populated nation to guard against possible attacks during Christmas festivities.
"It's our tradition. It is our obligation to protect one another as members of the nation," NU deputy chairman Masdar Masudi told Agence France Presse (AFP).
Masudi did not say how many volunteers would be deployed in the country but said Banser had about 4,000 members nationwide who could help.
Indonesia's intelligence agency warned Wednesday that information indicated that attacks may be planned by extremists over the Christmas-New Year period in large cities across the sprawling archipelago, including Jakarta.
Indonesia has 87 to 90 percent of its population that follows Islam while lesser than 7 percent follows Christianity. The rest are indigenous people.
The Muslim group had persuaded youths from other religions to join protecting the churches, Reuters reported.
"We have an annual program to set up posts to secure Christmas. For this year, I have contacted groups from other religions like the Hindhus and Buddhists and they have responded positively," said Tatang Hidayat, national coordinator of NU's Banser group, known for its military-like uniform.
Hidayat said the volunteers would closely collaborate with existing police operations and the churches' own security.
Jakarta police said Thursday they would deploy 18,000 officers over the Christmas-New Year season.
In 2000, several small bombs exploded at churches, killing 19 people, including a Banser member guarding a church in East Java, and injuring many more in what was seen as an attack against Christianity.
The Muslim nation was rocked by a series of blasts in recent years, the most recently was on the tourist island of Bali in October when suicide bombers killed 20 people.
Although Indonesia has been relatively calm in recent weeks, many security analysts say threats of attacks still run high because police have yet to catch one of the alleged masterminds of previous bombings, Malaysian-born Noordin M. Top.