A GROUP of extremists have sparked fury after cutting the cross from the grave of a Catholic priest after mourners were banned from saying prayers at his home.
According to persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, mourners were forced to hold prayers for priest Albertus Slamet Sugihard at a local church instead. The Red Cross ambulance driver, who died of a heart attack on Monday, lived in the village of Purbayan in the Yogyakarta, region of Indonesia, which is home to only three Christian families out of a total 150. Mr Sugihard was only allowed to be buried in the periphery of the Jambon public cemetery, where, according to local community standards “it is not permitted to place religious symbols.”
The desecration of the priest’s grave was condemned by the Catholic Church who warned against rising intolerance in the region of Yogyakarta.
Agus Sumartoyo, of the Semarang Catholic Archdiocese told the Jakarta Post: “The duty of the security apparatus and the government is to protect the human rights and basic rights of citizens.”
He added that they had found evidence that Mr Sugihardi’s family had suffered from acts of intolerance from neighbours and were even physically threatened.
Mr Sumartoyo said: “Some newcomers with the backing of outsiders had physically and psychologically pressured [the family], directly or indirectly, through some community members.”
But local resident Bejo Mulyono told the newspaper: “This is community consensus.
“He could be buried here, but there should be no Christian symbol.”
Mr Mulyono added that the priest was allowed to be buried at the cemetery “because of an emergency”, but the cross on his grave had to be cut down.
He said: “In the future, this will be a Muslim-only cemetery.”
International Christian Concern has previously stated that more than 1,000 churches have been closed across Indonesia over the past ten years as Muslim communities in parts of the country push for stronger Islamic laws.