Church in Muslim-Majority Country Faces Trouble for Providing COVID-19 Aid
By Gina Goh
06/25/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Knowing that many families are impacted by the current pandemic, a pastor and his church in a Muslim-majority country in Southeast Asia have been diligently delivering food packages to impoverished fellow citizens. Little did he know that their actions would invite trouble upon his church.
When Pastor Nader* and his team were distributing the food packages in the community near his church in June, he was approached by one of the local Muslim leaders. The imam of the mosque asked Pastor Nader if there are other motives behind the church’s distribution of food. Although Pastor Nader clarified that it is for people who have been affected by COVID-19, he could not put the imam at ease. It also did not help when someone at the scene applauded the church for distributing the food while the mosques did not. Rumors about the church started to spread once local Muslim leaders felt threatened.
Things went south when some community leaders suddenly inquired about the permit of his church building and the Muslim background believers who are now attending his church. These leaders were afraid that Pastor Nader would convert the Muslims in their neighborhood.
At night, some extremists provoked the residents to demonstrate in front of Pastor Nader’s church. They tried to locate the church, but they were unable to find any building with the signs and the names of the church, since the church intentionally avoids displaying any signs or name to stay low-profile given the community’s sensitivity. As a result, their attempt to protest fell apart.
The following day, he was summoned by the police, a government official, and some community leaders to deal with the issue. He told International Christian Concern, “By the grace of God, the situation improved after the police and the sub-district government official intervened. The district government official ruled that we shall not continue worship in our church until we have a new permit from the government.”
He added, “We have long held the building permit from the sub-district. Yet this time, the official stated that the permit must now be issued by the mayor. As a result, we have to follow the rule, which often becomes a stumbling block for many churches in my country.”
In this predominantly Muslim country, religious minorities have to jump through hoops to obtain a building permit, whereas mosques do not face the same scrutiny. Even if they successfully obtain such permit, the local radicals often would pressure the government to revoke such permit.
In addition, as a compromise, Pastor Nader will distribute the food to Islamic and local leaders in the future, so the latter can be the ones performing the distribution.
Pastor Nader is asking for prayers for his church and other Christians who might face a similar situation in his country. Pray that their good works will not be stopped, their actions will not lead to suspension or shutdown of their houses of worship, that there is no more intimidation from the radicals to the community around them, and they can soon receive their building permit.
*Name changed for security reasons.
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