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Extremist Group in Indonesia Forcing Church Closures with Help of Local Gov’t

Christian Post

Michelle Vu
michelle@christianpost.com


An Islamic extremist group in West Java, Indonesia is using threats of violence to force church closures, according a recent report on religious persecution released by a Virginia-based Christian human rights organization.

AGAP (Aliansi Gerakan Ant Pemurtadan), which translates to the Anti-Apostasy Alliance Movement in English, is a radical Islamic group in Indonesia that reportedly has been threatening church leaders regardless of denominations with violence if they refuse to close their church.

AGAP (Aliansi Gerakan Ant Pemurtadan), which translates to the Anti-Apostasy Alliance Movement in English, is a radical Islamic group in Indonesia that reportedly has been threatening church leaders regardless of denominations with violence if they refuse to close their church.
“AGAP came through the doors,”. “These were not our neighbors, they were from the outside. More than 50 of them came into the church, wearing masks and carrying swords and backpacks of stones. I was so afraid.”
According to CFI’s recently released Fact-Finding Report on Religious Persecution in West Java, Indonesia, AGAP’s mission is to close all the “wild churches” that they think do not comply to Joint Ministerial Decree No 1/1969.
The controversial decree, which was issued in 1969, requires that official religions comply with statutes declared by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in their registration and activities, including regulations on building houses of worship. Christian persecution watchdogs note, however, that although many churches attempt to register and comply to the regulations, they are often times refused permission to build churches or conduct services.
According to CFI’s report, which was released on Oct.3, AGAP has had the support of the local government in its mission to close churches.
“Local government officials invited me to a meeting following the church closure, but when we came to the meeting the local officials were not there,” Christian Siswanto of St. Anthony Chapel told CFI. “Instead, members of AGAP were there. We have to sign another letter saying we have to stop all worship activities. We were under a lot of pressure to sign the letter.”
Formaningrum, one of the founders of Gereja Kristen Pasundan Church in a suburb of Bandung also reported on the local government’s involvement in the church closure.
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“The local government invited members of the church for a meeting,” said Formaningrum. “But when we came to the meeting we were asked to close the worship activities. They (AGAP) wanted us to sign a letter to shut the church down, even the Sunday school.”
Formaningrum, 66, said that they have applied five times for a permit to build the church but never received permission. The Protestant church, which began in 1988 with a handful of people, grew to more than 200 by the time it closed. The church has been closed since July 27, 2005.
“The big question for me is, ‘Who gave AGAP permission to close my church?’” said Father Iwan of St. Anthony Chapel whose church was closed. “The police do nothing to stop them; did nothing to stop. No action. This is happening to many churches in West Java , both Catholic and Protestant.”
Church leader John Simon Timorason said that at least 35 churches in Bandung and neighboring regions have been closed by Islamic mobs in the past 12 months alone, according to CFI’s report.
“If we build a gambling arena, a drug house, amusement place, it makes sense we should be afraid, but it doesn’t make sense to close a place of worship,” said Formaningrum.
“Please urge the Indonesian government to change the law so that we can have the right to worship. We should have a right to build our church, to worship. Freedom of worship should be a fundamental human right,” pleaded Siswanto.