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07/25/2021 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – A recent video of a church congregating under thatched roofs and tarpaulins in Aceh Singkil Regency has gone viral in the country. This church’s condition reveals an underlying problem in the region— the challenges Christians face in order to obtain a building permit (IMB) to rightfully construct their churches.

In response, the Fellowship of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) said it was concerned about this condition. PGI Chairperson Reverend Gomar Gultom told local media on July 14 that he visited the church in Aceh Singkil several times. According to Gomar, proper church construction needs to be done there.

“I have been to Aceh Singkil many times and visited several congregations that are already very worthy of owning a church building according to the 2006 PBM [a Joint Decree of the Minister of Religious Affair and the Minister of

Internal Affair], yet they still cannot receive their IMB because of the intolerance,” said Gomar.

“Several churches that were already standing were torn down and until now cannot be rebuilt. That’s why they worship in structures with thatched roofs or tarpaulins,” he continued.

The local government and FKUB (Religious Harmony Forums) often refer to agreements between religious leaders that existed decades ago as reasons why churches in Aceh Singkil cannot have more buildings. Gomar believes that the agreement was carried out under pressure and is no longer relevant to the real needs of the people to worship now.

He hopes that the Islamic laws in Aceh will adhere to the human rights principles related to the right to worship, as nothing should prevent residents from worshipping according to their respective beliefs.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected].