Religious Minority Village Set on Fire in W. Kalimantan

A police officer escorts former members of the Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar) from their village in West Kalimantan on Tuesday. (Antara Photo/Jessica Helena Wuysang)

By : Jakarta Globe | on 11:43 AM January 20, 2016
Category : News, Featured, Religion

Jakarta. More than 700 people in West Kalimantan have been forced to leave their village as it was attacked and set on fire by a mob on Tuesday, amid a nation-wide blasphemy scare.

The villagers, who resided on 43 hectares farmland in Moton Panjang, Mempawah district, were accused of being former members of the Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar), which has been grabbing headlines nationwide following the disappearance of several people believed to have joined the group.

The disappearance prompted a widespread scare that has even led to former followers being targeted. This is the first reported case of violence against the group, however.

Tribunnews.com reported that locals surrounding the farmland had been voicing their objections against Gafatar and had even pressured the local government to relocate them elsewhere.

An intimidation campaign against the villagers ensued, including the setting on fire of a car belonging to a former Gafatar follower in front of the Mempawah district government office while a closed-door meeting on evacuation of the villagers was being held on Monday.

Locals rejecting the villagers' presence were reportedly upset with the slow progress of the relocation and decided to take matters into their own hands, the news portal reported.

Despite heavy security presence, the angry mob started to set on fire houses and storage facilities in the village at 3.20  p.m. on Tuesday.

The ex-Gafatar members “were evacuated to a safe place. I hope [the incident] ends here and the area remains safe and secure here in Mempawah district,” district head Ria Norsan told the portal.

Ria said most of the villagers were transmigrants from Java, adding that her office would prepare transportation for them to return.

Gafatar is believed to be the transformation of another group named Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah, founded by a self-proclaimed prophet Ahmad Moshaddeq. Moshaddeq was sentenced in 2008 to four years in jail for blasphemy.

Suspicions that Moshaddeq might have established a new group, Gafatar, arose after a female doctor in Yogyakarta and her 6-month-old baby went missing on Dec. 30 and were found almost two weeks later in West Kalimantan, where the group is now believed to be based.

Since then there have been reports of more missing persons that were attributed to the group.

Indonesia has seen a spate of violence against members of religious minority groups recent years, especially the Ahmadiyah sect and Shiites.

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