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Christians in Indonesia's Papua rally over sharia

Christian Papuans sing a religious song during a protest in Jayapura of the Indonesia Papua province August 5, 2008. REUTERS/Oka Barta Daud

JAYAPURA, Indonesia (Reuters) - About 1,000 people from a Christian group in Indonesia’s Papua held a rally on Tuesday to protest against any implementation of Islamic law in the province where an increasing number of Muslims have settled.

The protesters, some wearing headbands with white crosses and carrying banners saying “Papua, sharia no”, also said they rejected the establishment of Islamic boarding schools and Islamic banking in the remote eastern province.

“We reject sharia implementation in Indonesia in general and especially in Papua,” Pastor Salmon Jumame told the crowd, gathered in a square in the provincial capital Jayapura.

Indonesia’s Aceh province is the only area to use sharia as part of a local autonomy deal, but some local governments have also tried to bring in sharia regulations.

Protesters also said the central government should rethink plans to make Sunday a work day in the province.

The move is linked to efforts across Indonesia to save electricity by shifting work days to the weekend when power demand is low.

Indonesia is predominantly Muslim but some areas, particularly in the east including Papua, have Christian majorities.