Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec 7, 2019 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- Authorities in Indonesia are expected to deploy 160,000 security personnel to ensure Christmas and New Year’s celebrations safe, according to local media.
According to UCA News, the number of security personnel deployed this year will be almost double that of 2018, when nearly 90,000 security personnel guarded about 50,000 churches across the country.
The chief of the National Police Traffic Corps said military personnel and “members of government agencies” will guard churches and tourism sites during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
In addition to attacks on religious minorities in recent years, Indonesia suffered a bombing attack on a police headquarters in Medan in North Sumatra in November, and in October a militant with ties to an ISIS-affiliated terrorist group stabbed the country’s Security Minister.
Indonesian authorities are concerned that the terrorist group, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), may try to launch additional attacks around Christmas or New Year’s, UCA News reports. Police in the country have arrested more than 100 suspected terrorists since January 2019.
Muslims make up 87% of the population in Indonesia. Christians account for 10%, and 2% are Hindu. Discrimination and attacks against religious minorities, and even among different sects of Islam, are not uncommon.
In March 2018, church officials in the country urged Catholics to be vigilant, especially during Holy Week.
Fr. Felix Atmojo, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Palembang, urged the faithful to stay alert after a church in the Palembang archdiocese was damaged earlier that month when six men broke into the Chapel of Saint Zacharias in South Sumatra’s Ogan Ilir district, damaging part of the church’s walls and burning statues.
The previous month, a man armed with a sword attacked members of St Lidwina’s Church during Mass in Feb. 2018, injuring two before the police shot him.
In May 2018, two men blew themselves up at St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, killing two. More attacks followed that day, and ultimately 11 people were killed and at least 40 injured in three separate suicide bombings at churches as worshipers were gathered for Sunday services.
Though the constitution of the country guarantees religious freedom, Indonesia has strict blasphemy laws embedded in its criminal code.
In Dec. 2018, human rights groups criticized a smartphone app being rolled out by the Indonesian government to allow citizens to file heresy reports against groups with unofficial or unorthodox religious practices.
Users can report from their phones the practice of any unrecognized religion, or unorthodox interpretations of the country’s six officially recognized religions: Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Protestantism.