Mobs Interfere Christian Worship At 2 Indonesian Churches : Report has it that mobs in northern Indonesia recently prevented a church from holding its Sunday service in one town and also damaged a worship building under construction in another.
According to local media, some 30 people in Riau Islands Province used hammers and clubs last Wednesday to smash massive holes in the walls of a church structure under construction in Kabil village, Nongsa District, Batam City, at the address RT 004, RW 21. The Pentecostal Mission Church of Indonesia (Gereja Utusan Pantekosta di Indonesia, or GUPdI) owns the site.
A man from the group indicated in a social media video depicting the attack that the church did not have a permit to erect a worship building, a frequent technique used by hard-line Muslims in Indonesia, where applications for permits are disregarded or denied and have onerous restrictions. According to GUPdI Pastor Sham Jack Sean Napitupulu, the church has a letter from the Batam Free Zone Authority approving the building.
Local police and Chabullah Wibisono, chairman of the Batam Interreligious Communication Forum (Forum Kerukunan Umat Beragama, or FKUB), denied religious motives for the destruction, saying the conflict was rooted solely in residents’ desire to use the site as a public facility, according to local media.
Church leaders filed a complaint about the damages with the Riau Islands Police.
The chairman of the Association of Indonesian Evangelical Churches and Institutions (Persatuan Gereja dan Lembaga-Lembaga Injili Indonesia, or PGLII) Riau Islands, Pastor Jimmy Loho, denounced the destruction as anarchistic and unacceptable, according to local media.
A GUPdI administrator on Friday met at area police headquarters with Batam City Muslim leaders, Indonesian Ministry of Religion representative Proverbs Yowei, and area residents and reached an agreement stipulating that construction of the church building would be halted until a permit is issued, according to Keprionline.co.id.
The legal case against those who damaged the church building under construction remains in progress.
In nearby North Sumatra Province, Muslim demonstrators in Tanjung Morawa village on Aug. 6 protested against the Mawar Sharon Church (Gereja Mawar Sharon, or GMS) congregation using a warehouse for its Sunday service and told members to drop plans to construct a worship building at a nearby site, according to a video posted by Aktualonline.com.
The video shows the protestors with banners stating, “We, the residents of Sub-village 1, Tanjung Morawa village, refuse non-Muslims’ activities in this village,” and “The residents of Sub-village 1, Tanjung Morawa Village, sternly refuse worship activities that are in violation of government regulations.”
Demonstrations in Indonesia have prevented a church from using a warehouse as a temporary place of worship, despite no permit being required.
The local division of Deli Serdang Regency is working to find a solution. The government’s attitude towards the situation is considered accommodative.
Indonesia ranks 33rd on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, with conservative Islamic society posing a threat to evangelistic outreach.
“If a church is seen to be preaching and spreading the gospel, they soon run into opposition from Islamic extremist groups, especially in rural areas,” the report noted. “In some regions of Indonesia, non-traditional churches struggle to get permission for church buildings, with the authorities often ignoring their paperwork.”