JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian security forces on Wednesday evacuated hundreds of members of a group authorities have called a deviant religious organization to the capital, Jakarta, after sectarian violence drove them from their homes in West Kalimantan province.
Indonesia has the world’s largest population of Muslims, the majority of whom adhere to moderate Sunni beliefs, and it recognizes six religions including Hinduism, Catholicism and Buddhism, but minorities, even within Islam, have faced rising intolerance in recent years.
Men, women and children associated with a group called Gafatar, which the country’s highest Islamic council considers a deviant sect, were attacked last week by other West Kalimantan residents who oppose their beliefs.
The attackers burned houses and cars, media reported, but there were no reports of any deaths.
More than 700 people arrived on a navy vessel at Jakarta’s main port. They will be housed in government shelters before being relocated, officials said.
One of the evacuees, Ateng, 42, who arrived in the capital with his wife and six children, denounced the violence against them.
“This is a violation of democracy,” he told Reuters.
“The law guarantees the right to assemble and organize.”
Authorities consider Gafatar’s teachings “dangerous” and the group was outlawed last year. People associated with the group say it is social organization and not a religious one.
Kalimantan, the resource-rich Indonesian part of Borneo island, has seen outbreaks of similar violence in the past.
Several hundred migrants from Java and Madura islands were killed in attacks by indigenous Dayak people there in 2001.
About 2,000 more people affiliated with Gafatar remained in West Kalimantan and would be relocated soon for their safety, officials said.
Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Robert Birsel