October 15, 2015 – Indonesian police have arrested three suspects and are still searching for another seven blamed for burning churches that led to religious violence in Indonesia’s Aceh province this week.
The incident has left two people dead and four injured.
“Those three suspects are initialed S, N, and I,” spokesman for the National Police, Agus Rianto, told reporters today. The police, he added, is still developing the case, searching for “an intellectual suspect” behind the riot.
Some blamed the demand by Muslims to demolish illegal churches built in Aceh for triggering the riot. An agreement in 1979 between Muslims and Christians in Aceh stated that the Christians were only allowed to build one main church and four small churches.
The Indonesian Churches Union said there was also an agreement among the local government, Muslim clerics and churches to demolish 10 out of 19 illegal churches in the province.
“The churches will be demolished within two weeks starting October 19, while other churches will still have their opportunity to get land permit,” Head of Indonesian Churches Union Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang told reporters on Tuesday.
He said the church burning incident was unexpected as the local clerics and government have been trying to calm the locals to prevent such an incident from happening.
The conflict has caused thousands of locals to leave Aceh for North Sumatra.
Banda Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that fully enforces sharia law, the Islamic legal code, making it prone to religious conflict.