Following the attack on a church last week that killed one person and injured several others, local authorities in Indonesia’s Aceh province have announced that several Christian churches are now due to be shut down.
The decision was made on Sunday after Muslim residents of Aceh, including members of the hard-line group “Islamic Defenders Front”, demanded that the local government lock up 10 churches, saying they were built without the required building permits.
Hambali Sinaga, head of Islamic Defenders Front, was quoted in the Jakarta Globe online publication as saying: “Ten churches have been identified as not having proper permits and should be closed.”
Sinaga said that the government had until today, Monday, to take action.
After attending a meeting of political and religious figures, Bardan Sahidi, a member of the provincial parliament, told the Reuters news agency: “All houses of worship, regardless of the religion, need to be in accordance with the laws of Aceh.”
Since the burning of the church last week, the government has deployed 1,300 police and military personnel to the area to patrol the streets and stand guard outside churches that dot the small palm oil plantations in the district.
Christians attended a service on Sunday right next to the charred remains of their church, under the guard of about a dozen armed security personnel.
“At the moment, things are calm but we are on standby for any further incidents,” said Saladin, spokesman for Aceh police, adding that those who had fled the mob had since returned to their homes.
The vast majority of Indonesians practise a moderate form of Islam and Aceh is the only province to adhere to Islamic law, which was brought in after it was granted special autonomy as part of a 2005 agreement to end decades of separatist violence.
- Pray for protection and courage for Christians in Aceh province, as they face growing oppression and opposition from hard-line Islamists.
- Pray for the government in Indonesia and Aceh province to intervene on behalf of Christians to have the right to worship in freedom and without fear.
- Pray for the witness of Christians in Aceh, and that those who seek to persecute them will, themselves, encounter Christ and come to know the truth of His Gospel and grace.
- Pray for peace on the streets of Aceh province.
1 Timothy 2 vs 1 – 2: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.“