A special service to observe the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation, set to take place in Yogyakarta on Friday (20/10), had to be canceled amid threats of religious violence.
The event organizers said they previously coordinated with police and the relevant authorities and everything appeared to be in order until a few days ago, when the caretaker of Kridosono Stadium, where the service was scheduled to take place, informed them that the venue would no longer be available.
“We regret that the decision regarding the security situation in Yogyakarta was taken by a party that does not have the authority to do so and that this has become the reason for the cancelation [of the event],” organizing committee member Bunawan said, as quoted by Suara Pembaruan.
Bunawan said there had been threats that the event would be disrupted, but he did not provide any further detail.
The service was supposed to form part of a national celebration to mark the Protestant Reformation that began in Wittenberg, Germany, in October 1517 when Martin Luther sent his 95 theses on what he viewed as abuses by the Roman Catholic Church to the archbishop of Mainz. This sparked a movement that eventually led to a split between Catholicism and Protestantism.
The celebration will take place in at least 17 cities across Indonesia, including Jakarta.
The service in Yogyakarta was scheduled to be led by Rev. Stephen Tong, the head of the Reformed Evangelical Church of Indonesia. However, some groups claimed that he was going to perform a healing service, which they believe can be used to convert non-Christians.
“Rev. Stephen Tong was only going to lead the service. In his more than 60 years as a Christian, Rev. Stephen Tong has never led any healing services,” Bunawan said.
Last December, a group calling itself the Ahlu Sunnah Defenders (PAS) also forced the cancelation of a Christmas service Rev. Tong was scheduled to lead.
Although Indonesia is officially a secular state, there has been increasing concern about rising religious intolerance since the end of former President Suharto’s authoritarian rule in 1998.