Indonesian parish attacked by angry mob

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An angry mob attacked three Christian churches, including a Catholic parish, and a Catholic-run school in Temanggung in Central Java.

The attacks Feb. 8 came after a court sentenced a Christian writer to five years in prison for violating the country's blasphemy law, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. The sentence was the maximum allowed under the law.

Author Antonius Bawengan, 58, was convicted of insulting Islam in books and articles he published in October.

More than 1,000 Muslims gathered outside the court after the sentencing demanding that Bawengan be sentenced to death. The crowd then marched to Sts. Peter and Paul Church and vandalized vehicles in the parking lot before storming the church and desecrating the interior, Archbishop Johannes Pujasumarta of Semarang told UCA News.

He said police arrived and prevented the mob from torching the church.

Two Protestant churches and a Catholic school also were attacked, the archbishop said.

"The situation has now calmed down," he added.

Archbishop Pujasumarta charged that the violence was planned and staged by "extremists" from outside the area, according to the Vatican missionary news agency Fides.

"We are shocked by this event. Violence is never a good solution," Archbishop Pujasumarta said. "We call on everyone, Muslims and Christians, to address issues with a sense of civility and in a spirit of fraternity.

"I invite the Catholic faithful and all Christians not to react to the violence. We want to be a sign of peace to all."

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, concurred with the archbishops' assessment that the attackers were not locals.

"People in the region are at peace," he told UCA News Feb. 9. "The region is not an area of conflict."

One man reportedly was arrested in connection with the attacks.

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