ICC Note: This church has been the target of arson twice already, and there are indications that the church burning down this time was not accidental. Tensions already exist between Christian churches and the local communities, which are predominantly Muslim, and those tensions can be easily aggravated. ICC will continue to monitor this situation, as local police have stated that their investigation is not yet complete.
By Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta
08/24/2015 Indonesia (UCANews.com)
A Protestant congregation in Indonesia’s Aceh province whose church was burned down last week is disputing a police investigation that blamed the blaze on faulty wiring.
Officials with the Pakpak Dairi Christian Protestant Church in Mandumpang village, in the predominantly Muslim province of Aceh, urged local police to more thoroughly investigate the fire, which occurred on Aug. 18.
“We want local police to fairly investigate the case. We lament that the police still believe that a short circuit was the cause of the fire. We don’t see it that way,” the Rev. Erde Berutu told ucanews.com on Aug. 24.
Berutu said that the morning after the fire, church members witnessed local police plucking a traditional machete from the rubble of the burned church. They say the presence of the machete, known as a reuncong, was proof that the fire was deliberately set.
“There’s an indication that our church was burned down [on purpose]. There was a reuncong. This reuncong wouldn’t be there by itself,” he said.
He also said that the church had been set on fire intentionally in 1979 and 1999.
“There was a religion-based conflict in 1979 and our church was set on fire. In 1999, another group tried to burn down our church, but a member of the congregation saw the fire on the door and immediately put it out,” he said.