Part One of Three
Living amongst 200 million Muslims, Christians in Indonesia are long used to being the minority. But in the last year, the country has seen a growing list of churches forcibly shut down by the government after protests from Muslims in the community. Many of these churches existed for years without a problem, but it appears that radical Islamic groups have gained significant ground in a focused campaign to protest the very existence of Christian places of worship wherever possible. Behind each church closure is a unique story, and for the last month a local ICC representative has been visiting those churches, collecting what would otherwise be the untold stories of Indonesia’s closing churches. Below is the first in a small series of these stories, shedding light on the plight of Christian’s in Indonesia that most in the English speaking world have never heard of.
The persecution of the Indonesian churches continues to this day. In spite of the good news of the church growth that we often hear of, Christians are faced with many difficulties when it comes to freedom of worship in Indonesia. One of the cities which can be considered as a stronghold is Bekasi.
GKRI Sinar Gembala Church in Bekasi was started about 20 years ago, using a house as a place of worship for its congregation. As the times passed, the congregation grew and today, there are about 85 people who attend Sunday service weekly. For all these years, the church has been welcomed by the neighboring people and it has had no problem with the community.
Last year, Rev Mokhtar Siringoringo and his wife who had been pastoring the church decided to expand the church building by joining the next house they bought which attached to the church building. This is the beginning of the challenge. Before the pastor and the congregation even tearing down the wall that separate the church and the house, the surrounding people provoked by the Muslims who are living outside or even far away from the community, rally against this project. Not only that, the Muslims even succeeded in making the local government close and
seal the church since last year. As the result of this closing, the congregation now worship every Sunday outside the church building, guarded by about 20 policemen.
In spite of all these challenges, the pastor and the congregation are not afraid. They are still in a good faith and they believe that God is still in charge of all things and they also still have high hope that one day, the church will be reopened.
During my meeting with the pastor and the wife, I did not sense any fear or losing of hope. They really had a great faith in God! They even cracked some jokes despite the persecution and challenges they faced.