INDONESIA: Construction of church blocked
“The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” (Psalm 27:1–3 NIV)
Local officials in the Central Java province of Indonesia have obstructed the completion of a Baptist church building for the past six months. The officials refused to grant the required permit for completion after local Muslim residents opposed the construction in the Tlogosari area of Semarang, the provincial capital. Last year, the government asked the church to collect more than 60 signatures indicating approval from local residents, but even though the church collected 84 signatures, construction was still halted.
With no resolution in sight, the Baptist church has decided to take legal action to resolve the dispute. “The reasons for the rejection are changing, starting from falsified signatures, expired IMBs (permits) until finally, the residents’ refusal does not touch the issue of principle permits,” the church’s attorney, Zainal Arifin, said. Pastor Wahyudi of the church added, “We will continue to fight for this because if left unchecked it will set a bad precedent for freedom of religion and worship in Semarang.”
Last year, a local chief revoked the permit for a Pentecostal church in Indonesia’s special region of Yogyakarta after radical Muslim groups from the area made protests and threats. The official said the permit previously issued to the church did not meet requirements established by a 2006 joint ministerial decree regulating the construction of houses of worship. The church’s pastor, Tigor Yunus Sitorus, said he then asked members to attend services at other churches. In January, an agreement was made that the church would move to another village.
Religious tolerance in Indonesia has come under threat. In May 2018, a court in Tangerang, Java, sentenced Rev. Abraham Ben Moses to four years in prison for religious defamation for sharing his faith with a Muslim driver. And while Indonesian Muslims are generally seen as tolerant and moderate, radical Islamic groups have been seeking to promote a violent version of Islam.
Dear Heavenly Father, we lift up the persecuted church in Indonesia to you. Please give your sons and daughters there an extra dose of your strength, perseverance, peace, hope and faith, that they will stand strong against the forces of oppression. Lord, please touch the hearts of those who would seek to block the spread of your Word by halting construction of churches, and in other ways persecute your followers. Please convict these oppressors of the error of their ways, and help them to see you through your faithful sons and daughters as the one true God. Unite the divided land as only you can, Lord, as one family, all belonging to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.