The Closing of GPDI Kampung Bangun Sari – Tanjung Pinang, Indonesia
Living amongst 200 million Muslims, Christians in Indonesia have long been 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 several months 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 second 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 Kampung Bangun Sari Pentecostal Church in Indonesia (GPDI is its Indonesian acronym) was founded by Pastor Faragi Harita, and had been a vital part of the village since 1992. For more than a decade, the church lived harmoniously within the Muslim-majority community. Over the years, the congregation grew to nearly 300 members comprised of adults, youth and children who would meet regularly in their permanent church building, which they built in 1995.
Ten years later in 2005, a staunch and radical Muslim man moved into the area and started to build an Islamic boarding school and mosque right in front of GPDI church. Later on, this man became one of the leaders of a fast growing radical organization that has been responsible for the closing and burning of church buildings, and even the killing of many Christians. This organization is called Front Pembela Islam or the Islamic Defenders front, known by its acronym, FPI.
Using the influence as the leader of one of the most daring Islamic organizations, he began to stir and sow seeds of hatred toward the church and its members, while at the same time pushing the Islamic community and its leaders to reject the presence of the Christian church in their area. Sixteen years after the hard work of Pastor Faragi Harita had been planted, the church doors were sealed by the local government, thanks to pressure from the Islamic Defenders Front and local Muslim community.
Knowing that what they had done was not ethical, the local government has been facilitating the congregation by letting them use a room in a nearby hotel. The government has tried to move the church to a different area, with the hopes that they could resume their worship in peace, but the existing community there also rejected the presence of the Christian church. Hence the church members are still not sure when this situation will come to an end.
In spite of this situation, the pastor told ICC that church members are still faithful and are praying that one day they will be able to go back to their church building and worship there or possibly even build a new building in a new place. In order to this, the church will have to obtain proper licensing from the government and somehow get permission from the local community where they wish to build.
– ICC note: This process can be almost impossible in some parts of Indonesia, forcing churches to either meet in homes or operate illegally. Please keep the GPDI church and Pastor Faragi Harita in your prayers today.