By BosNewsLife Asia Service
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife)– The army patrolled the streets of a village on Indonesia’s Sumatra island Wednesday, January 27, after two churches were burned down by a Muslim mob.
North Sumatra provincial spokesman Baharuddin Djafar told reporters that two Protestant churches and a church leader’s home were torched last Friday, January 22. There were no reports of injuries.
Christians said Islamic extremists torched the partially constructed buildings of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan Church (HKBP) and the Pentecostal Church in Sibuhuan village.
Reverend S. Lubis of the HKBP church said in a statement that “Hundreds of people arrived on motorcycles and burned” his empty church before torching the nearby Pentecostal Church.
Locals said the churches have been “a long-standing source of tension” in the predominantly Muslim area. The arson attacks were apparently prompted by Muslim anger over the churches’ decision to begin construction of permanent facilities after authorities held up permissions for several years.
However Reverend Charles Hutabarat of the Pentecostal Church told reporters he was surprised about the attack as local citizens “had approved” the presence of the church.
Indonesian officials said some 200 Christians fled Sibuhuan village, but that the situation was now under control. Around 100 security forces were deployed, but no arrests were reported Wednesday, January 28.
The troubles underscored tensions over what authorities describe as “unlicensed” worship services of minority Christians in several parts of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.