Barnabas Fund – Christians in Jatimulya, East Bekasi, in West Java, were attacked on Sunday 16th October as they met together to worship on the street. Outdoor worship was the only option for these Christians as their church building had been recently forced to close, part of an ongoing pattern of forcible church closures in West Java .
The Christians came from three churches who had been ordered by the Mayor of Jatimulya to close their church buildings five weeks ago, the closures then enforced by a radical Muslim group called the Alliance Against Apostasy. The constitution of Indonesia guarantees freedom of religion, but with their buildings closed and forbidden to meet for worship in private homes, the Christians have had to gather in the streets each Sunday, in order to worship together.
When they met for their service on Sunday 9th October they were warned to stop but when some 50 lawyers arrived from Jakarta the service proceeded, although it was shorter than normal. Then on Sunday 16th October the Christians found that in the street where they had been worshipping for the past weeks some 300 radical Muslims had laid out their prayer mats and were conducting their own Islamic worship service. Undeterred the Christians moved to another street and began their service there.
The determination of the Christians to continue to worship apparently angered the Islamic radicals. They approached the gathered Christians and began to mock them and insult them, calling on them to disband their meeting. A female church leader was pushed and shoved until she fell into a drain. The police who were on duty stood by and watched the mob, while a few even joined in the attack.
While no one was seriously hurt, and the Christians remain committed to meeting together, there is fear that there will be more violence and greater danger as they do so.
Incidents of forced church closures in West Java are increasing. According to some reports there may be as many as 30 a month. In the Indonesian capital Jakarta 18 churches have had police collecting data on their services, and are now expecting to be closed in the near future. The mayor of Sukabumi has called for all churches without permits in his town to be closed. The pattern of church closures appears to be moving into East Java , where 24 churches in the city of Malang are under threat of closure. The Indonesian Government has made public statements that they do not agree with church closures, yet government officials continue to issue decrees to close them.
Worse news comes from Poso, Sulawesi , where the number of suspected Islamic radicals has increased and there have been three assassinations in the past two weeks. On the weekend of 15th -16th October churches in Poso and Palu were placed under police guard.