By George Whitten, Worthy News International Correspondent
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife)– A church leader was stabbed in the stomach and a reverend hit in the head with a wooden plank during an attack on a group of Christians in Indonesia’s province of West Java on Sunday in , September 12, officials said.
Pentua Sihombing, a congregational elder of Batak Christian Protestant Church, was leading a group of Christians in prayer when suspected Muslim assailants jumped off a motorcycle and stabbed him in the stomach, witnesses said, the sixth reported attack on the Protestant church.
Sihombing has been taken to Mitra Keluarga Hospital in Pengasinan, Bekasi where his condition was believed to be serious. Along with Sihombing, Reverend Luspida Simandjuntak was assaulted on the head with a wooden plank, but his condition was not immediately clear.
Two people were reportedly detained following the skirmishes.
The attack followed a series of incidents since 1998 when the congregation purchased a plot of land and began to constructing a church on the land. In 2000, a 500-strong mob burned down the partially completed church building, although the church said it had the necessary consent for the building from hundreds of local residents and local official.
The church purchased a house to use as a church facility and re-submitted a formal application to construct another building. The application remained unanswered for over a year as Islamic fundamentalist groups stepped up their protests against the congregation, Christians said.
When the application to build a church was officially turned down in 2009, authorities then sealed the temporary church facility, forcing church members to hold worship services in an open field, where the reported attack took place Sunday, September 12.
In recent months, hard-line Islamic groups have also thrown shoes and water bottles at church members, interrupted sermons with chants of “Infidels!” and “Leave Now!” along with dumping feces on the land, locals said.
Last month, an angry mob of Muslim militants repirtedly surrounded the congregation while they were holding an open air service, and despite the presence of 300 police sent to “protect” the congregation, the mob attacked them, according to witnesses.
The attack left at least a dozen people injured, including the pastor, Reverend Luspida Simanjunta.
Tensions are high in the region following a Muslim congress held in June where it was decided to unite against the “Christianization” in the area. Approximately, 86 pecent, or about 200 million, of Indonesia’s population identify as Muslims, making it the world’s largest Muslim population. Nine percent of the population has a Protestant or Catholic background, according to official statistics.