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Indonesia: Muslim, Christian “ Expansionism” threatens religious stability

Jakarta: 10 Feb. The "expansionist" nature of Islam and Christianity is the most serious threat to religious peace, one key Islamic leader has said. "The idea of dissemination is crucial and Islam and Christianity are both expansionist
If we give them a free market there will be conflicts," Din Syamsuddin, of the 25-million strong Muhammadiyan, told foreign journalists in Jakarta. Over 200 of Indonesia`s 230 million people are Muslim, cohabiting with millions of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

Though the country has long been considered a model of religious co-habitation, tensions between Christians and Muslims have increased in the past few years.

"In order to have peace it is important not to enter each other`s spheres," said Syamsuddin, whose Muhammadiyan is the country`s second-largest Muslim organization.

According to Syamsuddin, the key problem is the innate desire of the two religions to expand.

"Indonesia is facing Islamisation, though [local] Muslims believe it is also facing Christianisation. The problem is proselytism. We have to solve the issue with mutual understanding."

"There are both Muslim and Christian fundamentalist groups. In the past few years, I have seen at least 60 publications that were apparently on Islam but were actually against Islam," he added.

Father Franz Magnis Suseno, a Catholic priest and the director of Jakarta`s Driyarkara Advanced School of Philosophy, told members of the Foreign Correspondents Club that Christians in Indonesia are fearful.

"Christians have been under increasing pressure and they are afraid of the future," he said.

Suseno said tensions could explode should the country`s economy deteriorate in the coming year, which he said will be decisive.

"If Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono manages to implement changes and bring prosperity everything will be fine, but if this year brings a further worsening of living standards, we will be in trouble" he warned.-AKI