Monday, May 08, 2006

The Voice of the Martyrs: Indonesia - Two house churches closed

"The Voice of the Martyrs - In the Indonesian city of Bogor in West Java on April 23rd, a Muslim mob of about 200 and a crowd of supporters from surrounding areas shut down a Sunday morning service at the Gunungputri house complex. With hundreds of pleased onlookers standing by, the church was evacuated and emptied of its contents. The protesting demonstrators insisted that illegal religious activities were taking place in the house because nearby neighbors had never submitted a recommendation allowing Christian gatherings there. The owner of the house finally gave in to the mob's demand to stop holding Sunday services. A few policemen showed up on the scene as women from the congregation cried while their church was officially closed.

Still not satisfied, the Muslim mob marched to a Christian house being 'misused' as a church, which also served as a store. However, when the crowd arrived, the house -- which was regularly used as a Sunday service meeting place -- had already been locked by its owner. Fearing that the mob would shut the church down by force, members of the congregation left the church to avoid any conflict or destruction. Unable to enact another church closure, the mob disbanded, but only after they warned security forces that they would return if the Christians continued holding services at the house-store. The Muslims demanded that the local government strictly enforce a church establishment law against Christians, requiring a minimum amount of members and community support. This makes it difficult for many small churches to survive, especially in predominantly Muslim or rural regions. Even though religious freedom is 'guaranteed' in Indonesia's constitution, dozens of churches have been closed in the past several months."

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