Two days ago, someone pulled out, damaged and burnt several wooden crosses at the Bethesda Christian cemetery in Mrican, Yogyakarta, a densely populated area, not far from Sanata Dharma Catholic (Jesuit) university and Yogyakarta State University.
The keeper of the cemetery, Hari Yuniarto, reports that in the ten years since he has held the job, he has never seen such vandalism, which is under police investigation.
The motive remains obscure, but the incident joins a long list of cases of intolerance that have taken place in recent months in Yogyakarta, capital of the homonymous special region, which is ruled by a monarch, a sultan.
The previous case in time occurred just last week and involved Slamet Jumiarto, a Catholic painter, who had moved with his wife and children to Karet, a village in Pleret subdistrict. After the Catholic family moved in, the village chief and the local community informed the new residents that they had to leave because only Muslims could buy or rent houses and land.
In December 2018, some residents in Purbayan removed the upper part of a cross placed on the tomb of Albertus Slamet Sugihardi, after informing his widow, Maria Sutris Winarni, that the cemetery was “for the exclusive use of Muslims”.
Before that, the Catholic family was forced to hold a private funeral to avoid tensions with the Islamic community.
A few weeks later, Christian tombs were vandalised in several cemeteries in Magelang, 30 kilometres north of Yogyakarta, Central Java. The first one to be attacked was Giriloyo public cemetery, followed by the Kiringan and Malangan cemeteries.
Local residents report that the person responsible for these acts is a man with mental disorders. In Indonesia, police usually drop charges if vandals suffer from such conditions.