Image: The Surabaya Pentacostal Church front yard and gate’s canopy after the bombing at May 13, 2018

Three churches have been forced to close since July this year, as violations against religious freedoms increase. Indonesia ranks no.30 in the WORLD WATCH LIST; Source of persecution: Islamic oppression.

The first was a Pentecostal Church in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. On 30 July 2019, their building permit was revoked by the local government for failure to meet the requirement to use the building frequently. The pastor, Tigor Yunus Sitorus, applied for the church building permit in 2017, which was approved in January 2019. But unfortunately, during that time, the church was torn down. And weeks before the permit was revoked, local people had intimidated the church by putting up posters in many places.

The second was a Baptist Church in Semarang. The construction of the church building was stopped by locals on 1 August 2019, because the building permit date had expired. The permit was given in 1998, however, due to financial issues, its construction was intermittent. The Semarang City Mayor facilitated a meeting on 6 August 2019 between the church and the locals. It was decided that the church must renew the building permit; only then will the locals welcome the church.

The third was another Pentecostal Church in Riau. Their Sunday service on 7 August was stopped on the grounds that they did not possess a building permit. According to Pastor Ganda Damianus Sinaga, he has applied for it officially, but like many other churches in Indonesia, it is very difficult to get one.

In a video that has gone viral, government officers are seen breaking-up and dispersing the churchgoers; they were worshipping in the church yard as the building had been sealed off. “Please wait until the service is done, then we can discuss,” the pastor pleads with the officers. They refuse to listen and continue to disturb the service. This results in some women, including the pastor’s wife, shouting, “It is our right to have Sunday service, why can’t you let us be?”

Failure to obtain a building permit has been a widely used as an excuse by the Islamic religious authorities to justify closing churches in Indonesia.

The Joint Ministers Decree on Religious Building Permits established in 2006 requires that the every religious group must seek approval from the local community, through signatures, in order to build a ‘worship house’. But for minorities, like Christians, it is hard to gather sufficient numbers of signatures from the majority Muslims. And even if they succeed, approval from the government may take years, even decades.

Please pray for the churches in Indonesia who are facing these situations:

  • Pray for the three churches, for the leaders and members, to find another way to meet together for services and worship.
  • Pray for God to give them wisdom on how to deal with the Muslim community and government officers.
  • Pray for the church to be a blessing to the community, a light to shine for Jesus. Pray that they will not retaliate evil for evil, but good for evil.
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