Indonesia: Church Forced to Close by Mob; New Law Could Threaten Church Plants

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

(Voice of the Martyrs) -- VOM contacts in Indonesia report that on March 26, hundreds of radical Muslims converged on the Church of Pentecost in Indonesia (PTDI) in Gunung Putri, Bogor County, West Java during a Sunday morning service. The mob’s angry protest over the property being “misused” as a church building lasted five hours. Some of the women among the 190 congregants began crying hysterically as a result of the mob’s hostile demonstration, with some falling unconscious and collapsing to the ground.

After law enforcement officers of the Resort Police of Gunung Putri set up a meeting between the church’s pastor, Daniel Fekky, and representatives of the Muslim mob, the pastor agreed to close the church and cease all of its Christian activities. Only then did the Muslim mob of 200 disband. Pastor Daniel has led PTDI’s services for nine years, but the residents of Gunung Putri and the local government did not protest his ministry until a year ago. The concerned pastor exclaimed, “If this church is closed down, where can my congregants and their children worship the Lord?”

Muslims defended their closure on legal grounds, even though there is a constitutional guarantee for freedom of worship in Indonesia.

Last week, the Religious Affairs Minister and the Home Minister announced a revision of the 1969 Joint Ministerial Decree (SKB) which dealt with church buildings and government approval. The revisions will need the signature of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono before coming into effect.

The revised SKB regulations would set three conditions before a church building can be built or a congregation legally established:
1. Proof of at least 90 existing members with official ID cards
2. Signatures from 60 neighbors of different faiths approving of the establishment of the new Christian congregation
3. approval from local authorities

Indonesian Christians say the new law will make it more difficult to open new churches, especially in rural, predominantly Muslim areas. They also point to already-established churches which have tried for years to get government approval, without success.

Article 29(b) of the Indonesian constitution guarantees Indonesian citizens the freedom to choose their own religion and to worship according to the dictates of that religion.