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Christians in Northern Indonesia Hope for a Miracle

ICC Note: In Indonesia, the province of Aceh is controlled by the strictest application of Sharia law. This leaves little room for religious freedom and many Christians have seen their churches ordered to close in the past year. At least one Christian woman was also arrested and jailed for 60 days earlier this year after sharing Jesus with a member of the Aceh population. 

12/23/2012 Indonesia (Jakarta Globe) - Religious tolerance for all in Aceh is still a pipe dream for most minority groups living there, despite the peaceful everyday social interactions between people of all religions there.

Underneath the calm surface, there is religious strife in the province. A priest and human rights activist said that the move by law enforcers to shut down their places of worship was a form of human rights violation.

“Acehese people has been known as a tolerant people towards non-Muslim group, and also in terms of worship. So, the development in the recent years is very strange,” said Zulkifar Muhammad, an executive director of human rights non-governmental organization coalition in Aceh. “The new laws don’t seem to be in line with the tolerance displayd by the people of Aceh.

“There was no conflict between religious communities in Aceh. It’s because from the past, Acehese people are known as people who accept diversity,” he added.

According to Zulkifar, worshiping or gathering to worship based on someone’s belief is a basic right that is bestowed on a person since birth and cannot be infringed or taken away. A ruling which limits someone’s basic right is a form of human rights violation.

“Nowadays, the state makes a mistake by limiting people’s basic right to worship comfortably in whatever their religion is,” Zulkifar said.

Last October, the Aceh provincial government closed nine churches and six Buddhist temples, saying the congregation did not secure permits. As a result, some no longer have a place of worship.

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