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Islamist group demands demolition of churches in Indonesia

Country/Region: Indonesia, South and East Asia

Susilo-Bambang-Yudhoyono-4X3.jpg
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Agência Brasil / CC BY 2.5

Indonesia’s president has called for tolerance and condemned religious intimidation as an Islamist group demands the demolition of five churches.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was speaking at an event held by the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP), the largest Protestant denomination in Indonesia, on Sunday 4 December.

He said:

Our nation’s diversity is a strength, a gift from God which we must preserve. Therefore, we must not force our will onto or intimidate our brothers in performing their religious duties. Tolerance is non-negotiable.

The speech came as Indonesian churches are once again under threat by Islamist extremists. A group in the town of Pracimantoro, Central Java, has appealed to the local government for the demolition of five Protestant churches in the area.

It claims that they do not have building permits; the churches have received authorisation from the office for religious affairs in the provincial capital, but the local government is refusing to hand over the official documents. The leader of the Islamist group is also the head of the local government Department for Religious Affairs, which may explain the hold-up.

Tension is rising in the area amid rumours of demolition threats that have been circulating in a series of documents.

Churches harassed

Christians in Indonesia face many obstacles regarding the construction of church buildings. Obtaining all the required permits is a long-winded and complicated process, which can take five to ten years. Approval is required from a quorum of residents in the surrounding area as well as the local Interreligious Dialogue committee. Officials often come under pressure from radical Islamists to block church building projects.

In addition to the five Protestant churches in Central Java, nine churches in West Java have come under threat by extremists.

GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor, West Java, has come under severe and sustained harassment from both the authorities and Islamists. The congregation has been forced to hold services on the street in front of its half-constructed church since the authorities revoked its building permit. They have refused to allow GKI to reopen in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling.

HKBP in Bekasi suffered a similar ordeal and was eventually forced to drop its campaign to build a new church after an elder was stabbed and a minister was beaten in 2009.

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  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

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  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

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