INDONESIA: Attacker of church found guilty but given suspended sentence
A court in Indonesia handed a suspended sentence to a man found guilty of assaulting members of the HKBP Filadelfia (Batak Society Christian Church of Philadelphia) congregation last year. Abdul Aziz bin Naimun was charged with violating the Criminal Code on offensive behaviour and prosecutors had sought a three-month jail sentence. The panel of judges ruled that the defendant was guilty but would only be required to serve jail time if he committed any crimes in the next six months.
The attack occurred on 15 April 2012 when Abdul and others threw stones at church members after their Sunday service and threatened to kill their pastor Palti Panjaitan if they continued worshipping on the sidewalk of the Filadelfia housing compound. Although the church had an official building permit from local authorities, its building had been sealed up by local fundamentalists. The Bekasi regency administration then offered other buildings, but the congregation declined them.
Since the building closure, the congregation has joined members of the GKI (Indonesian Christian Church) Yasmin in Bogor to hold services almost every Sunday in front of the Presidential Palace in protest against the absence of religious freedom in the country.
The presiding judge said that all seven witnesses who testified in court said the defendant committed the crimes alleged against him. He added that a video clip showed the defendant and his accomplices launching the attack, and the intimidation was authentic and could be accepted as evidence. The video recorded by an independent journalist shows the defendant saying, “If your congregation holds another service in this village, I will finish you off, Palti,” while his index finger across his throat as though he were slicing it.
The church reported the incident to the police on 19 May, and Abdul was later charged. But on 25 December 2012, Abdul reported Palti to the police for assault and the minister was arrested. In Abdul’s report to the police, he claimed Palti had beaten him during an altercation when the congregation held its Christmas service on the sidewalk.
Neither Abdul nor Palti are detained and the case against Palti has yet to be brought to court. According to the judges, Abdul’s light sentence was given because the defendant was a local religious leader and vowed not to reoffend.
Judianto Simanjuntak, a lawyer for the congregation, said he was disappointed by the trial as Abdul had not been tried for all his alleged crimes, having only “heard the offensive behaviour allegation while the congregation reported three violations to the police.” The defendant had allegedly committed two other serious crimes, namely, using force to prevent others performing their prayers, and intimidation, which is in contravention of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia.
HOME GROUP PRAYER
“Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.” (Numbers 14:19 ESV)
We ask your forgiveness of the wrongs which are being committed in Indonesia against your people. We pray that you would touch the hearts of the authorities in Indonesia to ensure that justice is done and all are able to freely worship and confess their faith in you. You were able to turn Pharaoh’s heart so that he let your people go. We ask that you also touch the hearts of those in Indonesia and elsewhere in the world who are filled with religious hate and persecute others so that our brothers and sisters in Christ are allowed to worship freely. We know we need your forgiveness for our own sins, but we also desire your justice and pray that we may be forgiven yet do right in your Name. May the laws in Indonesia which prevent such attacks be enforced and may all religious leaders preach the gospel of peace. We pray for this brave congregation who continues to protest and accepts persecution and violence from others in order to proclaim your mighty deeds. We pray that you fill all our hearts with the power of your Holy Spirit that we may also boldly proclaim your Name in our own communities and testify to your grace. Please watch over your flock in Indonesia and see that they come to no further harm. Bless them and may their congregation grow.
In Jesus’ name we pray,