Indonesian churches criticise far-right anti-Muslim film

By Ecumenical News International
14 Mar 2008

The Council of Churches in Indonesia has joined a growing chorus of calls for a controversial Dutch film about Islam not to be shown - writes Andreas Havinga from Utrecht, Netherlands.

The film, made by far-right politician Geert Wilders, is entitled "Fitna", an Arabic word used to describe strife or discord, usually religious. Wilders has said the 15-minute film, expected to be released later in March, will show how the Qur'an is "an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror".

The Indonesian council has asked the Protestant Church in the Netherlands to lobby the Dutch prime minister, Jan-Peter Balkenende, to intervene and so prevent "very great problems". The request was made in a letter handed to the Dutch church's general secretary, Bas Plaisier, during a recent visit to Indonesia.

The Council of Churches in Indonesia has 87 member churches with millions of Christian believers. Indonesia was the largest Dutch colony, which became independent after the Second World War.

The Indonesian council in its letter also asks the Dutch church to make clear to Wilders that his film will "seriously disturb" relations between Christians and moderate Muslims in Indonesia. It asks that he not release the film.

Wilders has repeatedly said he is determined to release the film despite government warnings that this would damage Dutch businesses and endanger Dutch nationals living abroad.

In February, the main governing body of the World Council of Churches, its central committee, added its voice to the concern expressed in the Netherlands and in other parts of the world about the release of the film. It urged Christian communities "to seek common cause with other religious communities to respond to crises that occur in such a way as to model a non-violent and respectful solution".

During his visit to Indonesia, Plaisier spoke with both Christians and Muslims about the possible consequences of the film's release.

The Protestant Church sent Wilders a letter in January, asking to meet with him, but had not yet received a reply. In a 5 March statement, the Protestant church quoted its general secretary Plaisier as saying, "Freedom of speech is great, but when we see what immense consequences Wilder's film could have, also and especially abroad, then surely he has to consider not releasing the film."

Wilders' film will not be broadcast on Dutch television, the national daily Volkskrant newspaper reported on 6 March. No channel wants to agree to Wilders' condition that the film must be shown in its entirety.

Wilders said in February that his film will at least be released on a Web site dedicated to the film. The Web site went on-line on 6 March at www.fitnathemovie.com.

In the past, Wilders has called for the Qur'an to be banned and likened it to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf", written before he took power in Germany in 1933. Wilders leads the Freedom Party, which has nine seats in the Dutch parliament and he has had police protection since Dutch film-director Theo Van Gogh was killed by an extremist Islamist in 2004.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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