1,000 Indonesian Churches Have Been Closed Despite ‘Religious Harmony’ Law

ICC NOTE: One of the many hurdles in which the church in Indonesia must face is the requirement in receiving a specific amount of signatures from different faiths within their community. Unless they receive the signature threshold, legally they cannot build or form a legitimate congregation. In many cases, the Christian community is the minority as the dominate religion in Indonesia is Islam. As a result, local officials and communities do not sign the permits as they consider Christianity or any form of religious freedom to be blasphemous and not in the best interest of their people. To further the injustice bestowed upon the Christian community, church buildings have been set ablaze and Christians have faced physical attacks and even death of the most brutal means. 

12/14/2015 Indonesia (Evangelical Focus) – The Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin in Bogor, West Java, will hold an interfaith celebration. They will be joined by Human Rights organisations. It is just one of many that have been closed down as part of a wider crackdown on minority faiths in Indonesia. Minority faiths have suffered in a Muslim majority country since the implementation nine years ago of a law to promote ‘religious harmony.’ In practice, this law requires non-Muslims to obtain 60 signatures from people of a different faith as well as permission from the local authority before they can build a place of worship. If a church is deemed not to have the correct building permits, it can be torn down. GKI Yasmin has been embroiled in controversy over its permits since 2008. Since the bill was passedl, more than 1,000 Indonesian Christian churches have closed. Others have never been built.

IRREGULARITIES WITH THE PERMITS

According to the Human Rights Watch World Report, dozens of Christian leaders have complained that even though they fulfill the requirements, the government has denied them permits. The 2013 report found that 80% of the houses of worship, including mosques, lack permits, according to World Watch Monitor. In August, the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Commission criticized president Joko Widodo for doing little to fight against the country’s Islamic extremists. Protesters in Jakarta, after chuches closures. “The parliament is dominated by opposition parties, some of which are Islamist and can make it difficult for the president to function”, WEA stated. “However, just as Jokowi has managed to win their support for passing important bills, it is not impossible for him to make his way to adopt a strict policy in the area of law and order. After all, every incident of blocking worship services, violent attacks, and closure of churches is a blatant violation of the law”, they added. In a city in the province of West Java, all of its 29 Christian churches have been forcibly closed even after meeting the requirements needed to operate legally as a church.

“WE WILL NOT STOP HAUNTING CHRISTIANS”

Imams in Aceh, the only part of Indonesia where Sharia law is practised, have reportedly ordered the torching of churches, and Christians have been subject to regular bouts of mob violence. Earlier this month, the Gatestone Institute released a report entitled ‘The Indonesia Jihad on Christian churches’, which claimed that Imams had called on Muslims to torch churches. “We will not stop haunting Christians and burning churches. Christians are Allah’s enemies”, one Islamic leader said, according to the report. The extremists stir up violent mobs to destroy the buildings and threaten believers. But the persecution has not stopping the Church from growing in the world’s largest Muslim-populated nation.

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