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01/04/2022 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – A video of a group of residents forbidding members of the GPI (Indonesia Pentecostal Church) Tulang Bawang Church in Lampung, Sumatra, to hold a Christmas service went viral on social media.

In the video, a group of residents can be seen occupying the GPI Tulang Bawang Church while the Christians were holding a Christmas service. Local authorities were also seen inside the church.

The residents interrupted the service and asked the church to turn off the worship music while speaking to the church leader. A woman from the church challenged the resident and said, “It can’t be like this. We worship during Christmas. It’s Christmas. Christmas all over the world. The whole world celebrates Christmas. We should rejoice. […] We celebrate Christmas, yet you disturb us.”

The church has been worshiping in the location for two years. The pastor stated that their worship was protected by the state and should not be disrupted.

According to CNN Indonesia, the police said that the acts of persecution and efforts to disband the Christmas worship were due to the lack of a building permit (IMB). IMB stands for Izin Mendirikan Bangunan; it is a legal permit or building registration document in Indonesia that allows the construction of buildings. All religious buildings need to receive IMB as well, although, in Muslim-majority Indonesia, religious minorities tend to have a hard time obtaining IMB.

The Head of Public Relations of the Lampung Police, Kombes Zahwani Pandra Arsyad, said that the dispute had led to an agreement to stop worship activities at the church after December 26, 2021.

“What has been agreed is that if the permit has not been issued, then worship activities will no longer be carried out except as a house of prayer or a family house of worship,” said Pandra. The pastor of the church, Polite Sidabutar, also agreed to take down the cross symbol that was installed in front of the building to avoid causing the further dispute.

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