Indonesian Christians have criticised the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), an Islamic fundamentalist group, for saying that it would protect Christian communities during Christmas celebrations. “Why would this radical group, which is notorious for its anti-Christian violence, want to be so nice to us? We say no to their offer,” a Catholic man from Semarang diocese said.
“Let Christians celebrate Christmas in peace. It is their right and all Indonesian citizens should respect that,” FPI chief Risieq Shihab said during a meeting with Police Chief Timur Pradopo on Tuesday.
Yet, the peace and protection he has in mind would only be for those Christian communities that respect Indonesia’s strict religious laws. For Shihab, his group would stop any Catholic or Protestant celebration held in violation of the law.
Another Christian in Jakarta, anonymous for security reason, said that Shihab’s offer and the FPI’s close ties to police are sound reasons to be concerned. He pointed out that Chief Pradopo was present at the 12th anniversary of the founding of the FPI.
“The extremists of the FPI want to be recognised by other parties, whilst the police uses the group (which claims thousands of members) to improve its reputation with the population,” the source said.