Islamist Militants Close Over 100 Churches in Indonesia

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

By BosNewsLife Asia Service

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife) -- Christians in several parts of Indonesia faced another difficult day Wednesday, April 23, amid reports that Islamic militant groups and local governments in Indonesia have closed at least 110 churches from 2004 to 2007.

The Wahid Institute, a moderate Muslim non-governmental organization, along with church associations and the Indonesian Human Rights Commission has reported that discrimination and violence against churches was most common in the provinces of West Java, Banten, Central Java, South Sulawesi and Bengkulu.

Radical Muslim groups coerced local governments to send letters to churches prohibiting any activities, said Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency closely monitoring these developments.

When churches did not comply, they would be burned or otherwise damaged, as reportedly happened last December to the Jakarta Baptist Christian Church, known locally as Gereja Kristen Baptis Jakarta in the area of Sepatan in Tangerang province.


Muslim militants from the Islamic Defender Front kicked out the windows and doors of the pastor’s home and threw out his belongings, Christians said. Analysts say the situation of Christians is complicated as Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim with about 85 percent of its 220 million people saying they are followers of Islam.

Christians make up only about 8.7 percent of the population, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). At least 1,000 people died in recent years due to Muslim-Christian violence from 1998 to 2001 in Central Sulawesi province where there is roughly equal numbers of both communities.

Other High profile cases of Christian persecution in Indonesia include the 2005 arrests of three Christian Sunday school teachers who were accused of attempting to convert Muslim children. Also in 2005, Islamic militants on motorcycles beheaded three Christian schoolgirls who were on their way to school.

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