Indonesia Pastor Faces Violence, Jail Time for Conducting Services

Indonesia Church Officials Face Violence, Jail Time for Conducting Services

ICC Note: Radical Islamic groups consistently target Christian churches throughout Indonesia with protests that often turn violent. In this tragic case just revealed by the Jakarta Globe a pastor was attacked by radical Islamists late last month and subsequently arrested by Indonesian police. The pastor is currently serving a three-month sentence for holding services without a permit. Church permits are extremely difficult and expensive to obtain in Indonesia and are often blocked by Islamist government officials.

By Rebecca Lake, Sandra Siagian & Abdul Qowi Bastian

2/14/2013 Indonesia (TJG) -Minister Bernhard Maukar and his wife, Corry, were holding a service at their Pentecostal church (GPdI) in Mekargalih village, Jatinangor subdistrict, on Jan. 27, when it was attacked by members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who claimed that the church did not have a valid permit to operate.

CCTV footage obtained by the Jakarta Globe shows details of the attack where a gang of about 50 members from the hard-line organization scaled the gates of the religious facility, caused havoc and destruction within the place of worship and physically threatened the minister — at one point using Bernhard’s necktie to strangle him.

Bernhard was arrested by officials from the Sumedang Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) two days later for continuing to hold services without a valid permit, which breaks a 2005 local government law.

The minister is currently serving a three-month sentence at the Sumedang prison as he could not pay the Rp 25 million ($2,600) fine ordered by the district court.

Corry said this is the third major act of violence the FPI has inflicted upon them in the past two years.

The arrest and imprisonment of the priest, and the final warning delivered to his wife on Tuesday, comes after countless attempts by the church to obtain the permit required to continue offering services to its congregation.

According to Corry, the church has applied for the permit and has invested a large amount of funds in the process. However, Arief Saefulloh, the Mekargalih village chief who oversees the approval of permits, claims to have lost the paperwork, Corry explained.

According to Human Rights Watch, which will be releasing a three-year study on religious intolerance at the end of this month, these types of inter-religious conflicts have been significantly increasing, especially on the island of Java.

Andreas Harsono, the Indonesia researcher for HRW, says the solution to such cases of violence lies in the hands of Indonesia’s government and the country’s lawmakers.

“The short-term solution [to the conflict] is that the government should impose a zero-tolerance policy against violence in the name of religion,” Andreas said.

However, according to the activist, the government has continued to ignore the issue and has failed to “respect of the rule of law in Indonesia.”

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