Laksamana.Net - The National Police and Attorney General’s Office have been urged to punish leaders of a Christian doomsday sect that had incorrectly prophesized the world would come to an end earlier this week.
Chainur Rasyid, a lecturer in law at the University of North Sumatra, on Wednesday (12/11/03) said severe action should be taken against the “heretical” sect because its disciples might have taken part in a mass suicide ritual.
He further said such cults cannot be tolerated because they are a threat to Indonesia’s spiritual development programs.
Police on Monday detained 283 members of the little known Communication Forum for Indonesian Christians near the West Java capital of Bandung because of fears they might commit mass suicide after the world failed to end by 3pm.
Nearly all of them were later released after authorities determined they had simply been misguided and were unlikely to kill themselves.
The group, including many women, children and elderly people, had been holed up in a crowded two-story church for nine days and was expecting the world to end at sometime between 9am and 3pm.
After the 3pm deadline passed and the world was still intact, dozens of police and soldiers stormed the building.
The fanatics initially refused to leave the church and accused police of causing the prophecy to fail. However, local Christian preachers helped the security forces to convince the disciples to leave.
Police reportedly seized hundreds of sharp weapons from the church, as well as leaflets and video compact discs on the cult.
Bandung Police on Tuesday said 12 leaders of the sect had been arrested and charged with spreading a false religious teaching that might have caused mass suicide.
The suspects could be jailed for up to five years if found guilty of violating Article 156 (a) of the Criminal Code, which forbids the misuse and/or insulting of a recognized religion (that is, Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism or Buddhism).
Bandung Police chief Eko Hadi Sutedjo said the detainees include the sect’s leader Mangapin Sibuea and his sons Michael and Daniel.
The 59-year-old Sibuea, who claims to be the second coming of the Apostle Paul, had prophesized in January that the world would come to an end on November 10.
Although he was detained on October 23 for spreading false teachings, that didn’t stop his followers from believing the end of the world was nigh.
Sibuea reportedly started his cult in 1999 and attracted followers from across the country, especially from Papua, Maluku, Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara.
While waiting for the world to end, his disciples – mostly dressed in white shirts and black trousers – had fasted for several days and burned most of their personal possessions.
Analysts say Christian doomsday cults and Islamic fundamentalism have gained popularity over recent years due to the prolonged economic crisis that began in 1997.
Religious Affairs Minister Said Agil Munawar on Wednesday said the “doomsday sect” case would be handled by the West Java Religious Affairs Office and other relevant parties, including the Indonesian Council of Churches.
He declined to comment on whether his ministry would take action to combat religious cults, saying his staff were still collecting information from different parties.
Beaten to Death
On September 9, 1999 in Sukmajaya village, East Java province, three leaders of a similar cult were beaten to death by their disciples when a 9/9/99 doomsday prediction failed to come true.
The disciples were angry because they had been instructed to prepare for the end of the world by selling all of their personal possessions and fasting for nine days before 9/9/99.
When nothing happened at 9am on the prophesized day, the cult members became furious, ran amok and killed their leaders – at least proving the world had come to end for some folk.