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7/3/2024 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) — Recently, a video of a debate over an Indonesian church’s right to exist went viral on social media. 

The debate started when Eko Budi Santoso, the Mergosari village leader, and six villagers confronted the GPdI Jemaat Tarik Prayer House congregation during its worship service on Sunday, June 30, in Tarik District, Sidoarjo. 

Santoso called Pastor Yoab Setiawan out to talk to him. He reportedly told the pastor that he needed permission to conduct a worship service. Tensions grew, and one villager with Santoso reportedly shouted and nearly hit Setiawan’s wife.  

“We were very surprised that the village head said that holding a religious service requires permission from the village,” Setiawan said. “In fact, I, along with 100 congregants, always hold religious services every Sunday without permission.” 

Santoso later stated that he was only challenging the church’s existence because it lacked a building permit. While it does need a permit, the prayer house’s existence is registered through a local government report certificate signed by the Christian Community Guidance Regional Office leader, Luki Krispriyanto, on December 7, 2023. 

Eko admitted that he did not know that the church already had the certificate because he had never received it.  

Setiawan explained that the House of Prayer is different in function and shape from the church and does not have the typical church markings or ornaments in front of it. Since its inauguration on January 13, 2024, Setiawan admitted that he had received good support from residents living near the house of prayer. 

“So far, we are not disturbed by the existence of this house of prayer,’ one villager said. “If there are activities in the place of worship, they never use loudspeakers so that the activities cannot be heard from outside.” 

Authorities have promised to help expedite the processing of the church’s permit. 

“We give a deadline of one month for the permit to be completed,” Acting Regent of Sidoarjo Subandi said. “But while the IMB permit has not been completed, we ask the congregation to conduct worship in their respective homes. We will not make it difficult to establish a house of worship as long as there is a recommendation from the environment. We have conveyed this to the Village Head, Sub-district Head, and Military District Commander to provide maximum assistance to immediately complete the permits.”

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