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ICC Note: Four Christians and a pastor who were providing educational courses to assist the local community have been arrested and accused of proselytizing in the Aceh province of Indonesia. Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, constitutionally provides for religious freedom for its citizens. Unfortunately, it is more and more frequently becoming a place where persecution and abuse takes place. In the Aceh province Islamic law is applied and this becomes the basis for arrests and discrimination of Christians.
9/09/2013 Indonesia (AsiaNews) – The Sharia ” Police ” and security officials in the district of West Aceh, the Indonesian province where Islamic law is in force , arrested Pastor Hendri Budi Kusumo and four other people , members of the Indonesian Mission Evangelist Church ( GMII ) . The incident occurred last week, but only emerged in the past hours. According to reports the religious police – in charge of enforcing Islamic rules and customs – accused the five of “proselytism” , because they were trying to ” convert Muslims to Christianity in the area of Aceh. ”
Confirmation of the arrest comes from the Aceh ‘s office of the Committee for Religious Affairs . The local chief officer, Baron Ferryson , said that ” they were arrested a few days ago and charged with trying to influence ” the local population. They were taken by force from their homes, the man added, after rumors spread of “proselytism.” In fact, the Christian pastor was providing educational and remedial courses to the population in order to improve the level of education. And not even the head of the Committee for Religious Affairs claims to be “sure” of the allegations.
According to local media reports , Hendri Budi Kusumo and the other four men were taken from their home in the village of Blang Pulo , in the middle of the night . With them two other people were detained and later identified as “Muslims from the Aceh area ” , because they were in the company of Christians. Some witnesses add that “there may be other cases of conversion to Protestantism”.
A similar story occurred in June, when a Protestant pastor and three other workers were arrested in the district of Bireuen , again in Aceh , for proselytizing . A story emerged because an alleged convert identified as Hasbi (a “newly baptized ” in the local language , ed) returned to his village of origin, and attempted to bring Christianity to his brother Aman Suhardi . The authorities singled out Pastor Onekesyi Zega and arrested him while he was at the village of Bener Meriah , in the company of three assistants and carrying “evidence”, which were copies of the Bible in the local language.

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