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ICC has been following the case of three Christian women in Indonesia who have been jailed for “forcibly converting” children who attended their Bible school classes. All the children had the consent to attend from their parents, and though most were Muslim, the women did not attempt to force anyone to convert. These women have been jailed since their arrest, and in their latest appeal, they were sentenced to at least three more years in prison.

CHRISTIAN TEACHERS TO REMAIN IN JAIL

AKI/Jakarta Post (01/18/06)

Three Christian women jailed in the West Java town of Indramayu for inviting Muslim children to their Sunday school last year will stay in prison for three more years, after the Constitutional Court rejected a legal challenge to the ruling. The verdict drew criticism from Muslim and Christian communities in the area, who said the children had voluntarily gone to the school and had not changed their religion.

The court rejected on Tuesday a plea filed by a clergyman to strike off an article in the Child Protection Law, which the Indramayu District Court used to put the women behind bars. It ruled that the Rev. Ruyandi Hutasoit had no legal standing in the case and that the article he challenged was not in conflict with the Constitution.

The article in the Child Protection Law states that people found guilty of persuading children to convert to another religion are subject to five years in jail and/or a 10,500 dollar fine. Hutasoit argued the article contradicted one in the Constitution guaranteeing people the freedom to practice the religion of their choice.

A panel of nine Constitutional Court judges decided that Ruyandi had no right to contest the law because he had not experienced any “direct losses” in the case.

The court also ruled that Article 86 of the Child Protection Law did not contradict the Constitution, because the article clearly forbade the use of “tricks, lies or force” to convert children.

Ruyandi’s lawyer, Henri Rudiono Lie said the article hampered the practice of Christianity in Muslim-dominated regions. He said he would need time to decide if he would file another appeal.

The Indramayu District Court judges ruled last year that the three Christian women – Rebecca Zakaria, Eti Pangestu and Ratna Bangun – violated the article in the Child Protection Law by persuading Muslim minors to convert to Christianity without their parents’ consent.