Hundreds Cheer and Clap as Indonesian Church is Demolished

ICC Note: A crowd of Muslim residence cheered last week as local Indonesian government officials demolished the newly erected walls of a protestant church on the outskirts of the nations capital. For several years pressure has been growing on churches in this particular area of Indonesia to halt services and relocate. Radical Islamic groups are often behind this pressure and use building permit laws as a pretext for demanding the sealing and even demolition of Christian churches. 

03/25/2013 Indonesia (WWM)  – Cheers went up as a backhoe tore down the barely finished walls of the Batak Protestant Church near Jakarta, Indonesia on Thursday.

The pile of rubble that remained was only the latest setback to Christians trying to retain a toehold in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

The church, in the Bekasi subdistrict of Jakarta on the Indonesian Island of Java, had been meeting in a residential house every Sunday for the past 13 years. When the congregation swelled to about 600 members, Pastor Adven Leonard Nababan applied early this year for a building permit. The church obtained signatures of 60 non-Christian neighbors, as required by law.

Certain the church had met all the permit rules yet mindful that local governments in Indonesia can be slow to approve them, Nababan ordered construction to proceed — a not uncommon practice among churches in a country where applications often languish.

But when the walls began to go up in January, about 750 Bekasi Muslims took to the streets in protest. On March 5, police sealed the site and told church elders to demolish what had been built so far. They refused.

Bekasi officials declared the 60 signatures to be fake, and sent their own demolition crew to the church building site last week, in a sector called Taman Sari. About 150 members of Batak Protestant Church, commonly referred to as HKBP, were waiting, singing hymns and praying.

“They locked arms and stood together in front of the church to stop the demolition team,” a witness to the demolition said. “The HKBP pastor stood in the midst of his congregation. He said to them, ‘We are part of the Body of Christ.’”

“Not far from the HKBP pastor were about 300 Muslims who clapped their hands and shouted ‘Alahu Akbar,’ ” he said. “Some are members of the Islamic Peoples’ Forum and the Islamic Defenders Front. They wore white robes.” The witness, a Christian who said he ministers to Muslims who have converted to Christianity – a touchy subject in Islamic societies – asked not to be publicly identified.

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