An Islamist group in Indonesia has sealed off a brand new church, torn down its sign and demanded that the local mayor cancel its permit, all while a local police commander looked on.
The Santa Clara Church in Bekasi, a heavily-populated commuter city to the east of the capital, Jakarta, opened, amidst protests, on 7th March. The Islamic Forum Community (FUI) and other Islamist organisations have been protesting since the church obtained its permit in July 2015, claiming its leaders had used false identity cards to obtain it.
The FUI complained that the church had been built in a community where most of the population are Muslims and where there are also Islamic boarding schools. However, the Bekasi mayor refused to annul the church’s permit, saying it had fulfilled all the legal requirements necessary for construction, a decision that was supported by Indonesia’s Minister of Religion.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has started an appeal on the church’s behalf, and asked for supporters to send letters to ten top Indonesian leaders, including the President. The AHRC added that it will write a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
In its letter of appeal, the AHRC stated: “ … law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the Santa Clara Church congregants; in fact, it seems the agencies have no will or policy to enforce the law against vigilantes. As a result, the church congregation lives under pressure and intimidation.”
The AHRC called upon the local police to “take a strong stance” against the FUI and “ensure that the government guarantees protection to the Santa Clara congregation to practise their religion”.
“Furthermore, the government should revise the law on the establishment of worship places without any discrimination among the various religions and beliefs that exist in Indonesia,” the letter concluded.
- Pray for the leaders and members of the Santa Clara Church in Indonesia, as they face uncertainty over the future of the church, and also fear of persecution.
- Pray for reconciliation and understanding between the church members and the Islamist groups, and for the government to protect the rights of Christians to freedom of worship.
- Pray for Indonesia, as it faces growing pressure from Islamic extremism, for protection for Christians and churches across the country.
- Pray that, through the witness of Christians in their communities, many Indonesians will hear of the Gospel and come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Nehemiah 4 vs 9: “So we prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.”