Gafatar sect members taken to Java amid public outcry

Indonesian authorities have sent more than 2,000 members of a religious sect back to their home island of Java for “re-education” following a public outcry over their activities. 

Nearly 1,300 members of the Dawn Archipelago Movement (Gafatar) arrived in Semarang in Central Java province from West Kalimantan by ship late Wednesday, Semarang naval base commander Colonel Elka Setiawan said.

The first batch of more than 1,000 people arrived earlier this week  in Semarang and Jakarta.

Officials said they would be “re-educated” in several state institutions before being sent back to their hometowns.

The controversy over Gafatar erupted this month after a doctor and her young child disappeared in Jakarta, and were later found to have joined more than 100 other families in the movement in Mempawah regency, West Kalimantan.

Since then more families have come forward with reports of missing relatives, also believed to have joined Gafatar, a forbidden sect according to Indonesia’s Ulema Council (MUI).

Islamic clerics said the sect taught deviant teachings mixing Islam, Christianity and Judaism. A group of locals attacked and torched homes belonging to Gafatar members on January 19.  The sect followers were rescued by security personnel to a nearby military compound.

Television footage showed dozens of women and children being hauled into trucks in pouring rain under a heavy police and military presence.

Former Gafatar leader Mahful M. Tumanurung told local media that the group is not part of Islam, but follows the teachings of Abraham and is not seeking to separate from Indonesia.

He said Gafatar was a socio-cultural organization.

Indonesia has six state-sanctioned religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

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