Sect members shipped to Java camps

A video shows a mob burning down the Borneo settlement on January 19. Source: Brisbane Times

Jakarta’s Social Affairs Ministry has transported around 1,300 former members of religious minority group Fajar Nusantara Movement or Gafatar from West Kalimantan on Borneo to their homes in Java and Lampung on Friday.

“They were brought home by six airplanes and one vessel,” Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa told the media.

The former members, of whom 663 were children, are being held at a camp in Cipayung, East Jakarta, where the authorities are checking their credentials.

Gafatar is believed to be an offshoot of another group named Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah. Its leader, Ahmad Moshaddeq, was jailed in 2008 for four years for blasphemy.

The sect was disbanded in August because the government suspected it of “deviant teachings”, understood to be a combination of Islamic, Christian and Jewish beliefs.

Suspicions that Moshaddeq may have formed a new group arose after a female doctor and her six-month-old baby went missing from Yogyakarta on Java on December 30, before appearing two weeks later in West Kalimantan.

Other cases of missing people have been blamed on the group.

On January 19, more than 1,000 Gafatar members were evacuated in police trucks after a mob attacked their settlement in the village of Mempawah. No casualties were reported.

The Indonesian state ideology, Pancasila, only recognises six official faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Video shows a frenzied crowd destroying wooden houses before torching the settlement. Clothes and other possessions are strewn in the mud.

“The [mob] told us to leave, so we did, with just the clothes on my body,” said Supriyadi, 56, a father of four.

“Why are they so vicious to us, what exactly did we do wrong? We used to be members of Gafatar, sure, but that was disbanded months ago. Even so, Gafatar was not a religious organisation.

“We grow string beans and water spinach. We never stopped communicating with our family: they knew where we were. We practise the Koran just like other Muslims, we pray five times a day. We just finished building our mushola [Islamic prayer room].”

Human development and culture ministry’s acting secretary-general, Agus Sartono, was quoted saying: “We will convince them that they can lead normal lives. Of course this won’t be easy, because they already have misguided thinking and principles. But we have to fix this.”

While there was no proof presented by the authorities to link Gafatar with terrorism, many Indonesians are suspicious, especially after the recent terror attacks on Jakarta.

A Jakarta-based security consultancy warned clients last week: “Although it is too early to address Gafatar’s links to terrorism, the group’s recent recruitment influx is worrying, particularly amid the growing involvement of local radical groups with the Islamic State movement in Syria.”