INDONESIA: Churches forced out of premises by protestors and local authorities
A spokesman for HKBP, the Batak Society Christian Church of Philadelphia, said they had to call off the service after scores of protesters gathered to stop them worshipping.
“They were there an hour or so before we were to start our service. They brought loudspeakers and played very loud music. They also threatened us,” said the Reverend Palti Panjaitan. He said he had tried to reason with the protesters, who included women and children, but to no avail. Police who were there “told us to cancel the service to prevent any violence,” he said. “By doing so, however, they violated our constitutional right.”
At a protest in May, the congregation was subjected to hate speech and death threats during a service marking Ascension Day at their half-built church. HKBP has been trying to get permission to build a church in the district after submitting an application in 2007.
In the case concerning GKI Yasmin Church, after meeting with members of a local jihadist group earlier this year, Indonesia’s Interior Minister and local Bogor City authorities ordered the church to relocate to an undeveloped plot of land some five miles from the land and building they already owned.
Despite lawsuits, petitions, and formal protests filed by the church with Indonesia’s Justice Ministry, a 2011 Indonesian Supreme Court ruling that the church could reopen, and having the necessary local permits for operation, local officials are ordering the church to move.
The church building has been closed since Mayor Diani Budiarto ordered it sealed in April 2010, claiming that the church had violated city ordinances and did not have the necessary permits. Since the forced closure, church members have been meeting in front of the presidential palace in protest.
Christian leaders say local governments across Indonesia are appeasing the predominantly Muslim population by putting complex and difficult requirements on churches to obtain building and occupancy permits. The permits are very difficult to obtain.
Reports say that the Bogor City government has offered land and a 10-billion-rupiah budget to build a new building about five miles from the church’s present location. The Jakarta Post said the Indonesian federal government has even given its approval to the relocation plan.
But church officials say that even with the land grant, there is no guarantee they would be able to build because the church would be required to get a new building permit. This process involves getting a petition signed by 60 Muslims and 90 Christians.
HOME GROUP PRAYER
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15–16 NIV)
Father God, we lift up to you our brothers and sisters in Indonesia, specifically the HKBP and GKI Yasmin churches, in their need right now. Please give them strength, wisdom and consolation in their suffering for your name’s sake. We pray that through their testimony and the Gospel they preach in the open air through words and actions, the authorities, protestors and witnesses of the conflict between them and their Muslim neighbours may end in love and glory to you, our Lord and Saviour, King and Master. We pray for the Holy Spirit to stir the hearts of the nation, and that your truth sets them free in every aspect of their lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.