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More Muslim Attacks on Catholic Churches Across Asia

Muslim fundamentalists have attacked a Catholic church in West Java while an Iraqi Chaldean church was hit by rockets for the second time in three days in the latest in a series of attacks on churches across the Asian continent.

AsiaNews reports that no one was injured in the rocket attack yesterday against the Chaldean Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, a Sunni stronghold in northern Iraq.

A group of men fired rockets against the building while an explosive device was detonated outside a usually unused entrance door, according to local sources who also suggested that the attackers might be the same people who on Sunday fired some 80 shots against the church breaking windows and causing minor damage.

For months, tensions have been rising in the Sunni stronghold. Some people have suggested that the anti-Christian attacks are linked to the controversy caused by the Pope's speech in Regensburg, Germany.

AsiaNews says that some flyers making anti-Christian threats were distributed around town last Friday, calling on Christians to condemn the Pope's remarks or be killed and see their churches burnt down.

Mgr Raho, Mosul's Chaldean bishop, had posters pasted on walls saying that "neither Iraqi Christians, nor the Pope, want to destroy the relationship with Muslims".

Mob attacks church in Indonesia

Meanwhile, a crowd of around 50 people have attacked a church near Bandung, Java, Indonesia, according to another AsiaNews report, although there is no indication of a link to the controversy over Pope Benedict's Regensburg remarks.

The crowd gathered at a nearby mosque and marched on Yayasan Penginjilan Roti Kehidupan Church in a village 20km south of Bandung, ostensibly because it was used by Christians for "illegal" prayer meetings.

When the church administrator refused to close it, the group started to demolish the roof, stopping only when police intervened.

Bandung Police chief Adj Sr Comr Suparman invited the crowd to be "patient", saying only local authorities were allowed to close down a place of worship. The mob dispersed but threatened to return to "finish their work" if the church continued its activities.

Local sources told AsiaNews that the protest was fomented by the Anti-Apostasy Division of the Islamic Ulema Forum run by Suryana Nur Fatwama.

Faidin, a local neighbourhood official in charge of spiritual affairs, said the church had already been "closed" for a year following similar incidents.

"It has a congregation of only seven members, including two residents from the local village, who recently converted to Christianity," Faidin said. "We are disturbed by their presence and worried if they spread their teachings among local residents who are nearly 100% Muslim."

Palestinian human rights group condemns church attacks

The attacks in Iraq and Indonesia follow earlier attacks on churches in the Palestinian city of Nablus and in the Gaza strip last week which left four church buildings flame and bullet scarred in an earlier reaction to Pope Benedict's controversial reference to Islam at Regensburg.

Anglican, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic church buildings were damaged in the Nablus attacks, according to an Ekklesia report.

In a statement, Dr Bernard Sabella, Professor of Sociology at Bethlehem University and Executive Secretary of the Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees in the Middle East Council of Churches, said that Palestinian Christians were "especially worried" that Pope's quotation on Islam "could be misunderstood and attributed to the Pope himself".

"This is indeed what happened especially when the media did not differentiate, as His Holiness did, between the quotation and his own position," Dr Sabella added, noting that the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights had issued a strong condemnation of the attacks.

However, Dr Sabella also attacked commentators in the West whom he accuses of using the Muslim reactions "to advance political agendas".

He says that the political reality on the ground is that those who attacked the churches are "peripheral and marginal groups as demonstrated by the massive condemnation of the attacks that poured forth from the top of the body politic to Muslim religious institutions and personalities".

Dr Sabella listed the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Nablus Muslims community and the Palestinian National Authority as being among the personalities or organisations that condemned the recent violence.

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