Churches in Indonesia Destroyed as Tensions Flare

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation, comprising of 12.7% of the world’s Muslims. The country has an overwhelming majority of Muslims, with 87.2% of its people following Islam and a mere 7% professing to be Christians. The disparity has led to conflicts between the Muslim and Christian communities.

The churches in several areas of Indonesia are being targeted by Islamic extremists, most of whom have affiliation with the Islamic Defenders Front. These extremists are putting great pressure on local government officials to shut down churches that are operating without a legal license. West Java province has had all 29 of its churches shut down, and Aceh province has had at least 10 including registered churches shut down by government officials and others destroyed by Islamic extremists. Because the system that religious groups must go through to obtain an operating license is corrupt, the closing of many of these churches is unjustified.

Any religious group must go through an approval process in order to legally operate a house of worship. This system is often a source of discrimination against religious minorities. Many times, a Christian group who has met all necessary requirements still has their requests arbitrarily dismissed or ignored. To no fault of their own, Christians must occupy buildings deemed illegal if they wish to continue their worship.

Islamic extremists use this system to justify their violence toward Christians or pressure local officials to close Christian churches. On October 9th government officials, under pressure from members of the IDF, agreed to shut down 10 churches in the Aceh province. The day after this agreement, a mob of 700 people burned the Indonesian Christian Church, a church that was not even on the list to be shut down. This caused about 8,000 Christians to flee their homes out of fear of continued violence. Also, in West Java, where all churches have been forcibly closed, church pastor Bernard Maukar was put in jail for 3 months for operating an unlicensed church, even though his church had met the legal requirements needed to obtain a license for over a year and had since been simply waiting on the approval of the government.

Please join Jubilee Campaign in praying for the churches of Indonesia. Pray that they would have the strength to resist the discrimination from the government and Islamic  extremists. Also, pray for Indonesia’s leaders, that they would act in a just manner to protect the Christian minorities.

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