Muslim mob attacks Indonesia churches

TEMANGGUNG, INDONESIA: A Muslim mob on Tuesday destroyed at least three churches and clashed with Indonesian police in central Java after a Christian man was sentenced for blasphemy against Islam, the daily Kompas reported.

The angry crowd set two churches on fire and threw stones at another one after a hearing against Antonius Richmond Bawengan, a Christian man who was sentenced to five years in jail for distributing leaflets insulting Islam. Protesters thought the sentence was too lenient and demanded the death penalty for the man, who was arrested on October 26, 2010.

Shortly after the prosecutor read the sentence in the Temanggung District Court, the mob tried to attack Bawengan. Right after, more than 1,000 protesters took to the streets and clashed with police. Riot police fired tear gas, while protesters threw pelted stones, broke windows and burned vehicles.

Stores in the city were closed and traffic was reportedly chaotic because of the violence.

A pastor from one of the damaged churches said he hoped the government would investigate the incident, otherwise similar events could happen again and destroy the harmony of religious life.

On Sunday, Muslim villagers in western Java killed three members of a minority Islamic sect.

The recent spate of religious-related incidents of violence has elicited strong condemnation from representatives of the United States and the European Union in Indonesia, the Jakarta Globe reported.

"The United States joins the vast majority of Indonesians in deploring the violence in Indonesia directed at members of the Ahmadiyah community that resulted in the deaths of three people and the wounding of several others over this past weekend," US ambassador to Indonesia, Scot Marciel, said in a statement.

"We also note with concern the recent church burnings in Central Java [...]
 We encourage the Indonesian government to continue to foster tolerance and protect the rights of all communities," Marciel added, as cited by the newspaper.


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