21 April 2016
Indonesia - Islamist groups force closure of churches as persecution rises.
Indonesia is not somewhere that immediately comes to my mind when thinking of Christian persecution. However, stories coming from that country confirm that Sharia law is being applied with force upon all its inhabitants - including Christians. Although it is not illegal to convert anyone to Christianity here, there is evidence that rules in strictly Islamic areas mean persecution for Christians and other minorities.
Recent news regarding Indonesia's increasingly strict regimes are disturbing to say the least. There are reports of a 60 year old Christian woman being given 30 lashes for selling alcohol. According to the South China Morning Post: "Aceh is the only province in the predominantly Muslim country that applies sharia law, and public canings for breaches of Islamic code happen on a regular basis and often attract huge crowds. Those caught engaging in adultery, same-sex relationships, drinking and even associating with unmarried members of the opposite sex can end up facing the cane."
Earlier this month Christian Today reported the findings of World Watch monitor; that a church was forced to close by an Islamist group. The group, in front of a local police commander, sealed off the new church building and demanded it should be torn down. Similarly in March 2013, a brand new church was also closed after Muslim groups claimed that the church had falsified its permits.
Alliance member Open Doors has Indonesia placed at 43 on its world watch list and over the last decade, it has become apparent that vigilante groups are making it very difficult for Christians to practise their faith.
The Aceh region where the recent closure of the church took place seems to be at the forefront of current difficulties. Reports in 2015 indicate that Muslim militants were given mandates to attack and burn churches. The Gatestone Institute International Policy Council's report quoted Islamic leaders in that region who said "We will not stop hunting Christians and burning churches. Christians are Allah's enemies!" The report contains even more upsetting incidents: "On December 25, 2012, with all required paperwork in place, when a Christian congregation assembled on empty land to celebrate Christmas, hundreds of Muslims threw rocks, rotten eggs, and bags filled with excrement at the Christians. Police stood by and watched."
It also states that "For Indonesia, the country once hailed as the face of "moderate Islam," the "extremist" behaviour one would expect of ISIS has apparently become the norm."
There seems to be no safe place for Christians, as the authorities also seem to be involved in their constant discrimination, therefore prayer is much needed for their protection. One church leader says: "We are constantly having to change our location because our existence appears to be unwanted, and we have to hide so that we are not intimidated by intolerant groups. ... We had hoped for help from the police, but after many attacks on members of the congregation [including when they privately meet for worship at each other's homes], we see that the police are also involved in this."
·Pray for Christians as they continue to meet in their church buildings and homes, that God would protect them from harm.
· That people would be placed in government and in the authorities who would speak out for minority groups and build on measures to ensure their protection.
·That the gospel would still be spread in that land despite the difficulties.