Indonesia's Christian Struggle for Freedom

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CWN.org - EAST JAKARTA, Indonesia - Lukas Dikson is thankful he was miraculously spared from becoming blind after angry members of the Islamic Defenders' Front threw acid on his head, face and other parts of his body.

He and Ardian are among the eighteen students who were injured while police were evacuating them from their dormitories, along with the 1,400 students of the Arastamar Evangelical Theology School.

"I feel so hurt, but now [me] and my friends pray we will be able to forgive our enemies," Dikson said.

In recent years, there have been several attacks against the Bible school because the Muslim residents in the neighborhood complained about the evangelistic activities of the students.

The attack took place after a student of Arastamar, Junius Koly, was accused of breaking into a resident's house.

But Koly said he was just retrieving his sandals that he threw at a mouse. Several Muslim extremists beat Koly and brought him to the police, but he was later released for lack of evidence. The extremists then used the megaphone of the mosque and called on the people to attack their unwanted neighbors.

"I tried to get my sandals but the people shouted 'thief' and they came and beat me. I feel very sad because I think my schoolmates think this whole problem is because of me," Koly said.

Koly and other male students are temporarily sheltered at a refugee center while some of the students have gone home to their families.

The 600 female students from the Arastamar Bible School are now housed in this camping area. And they are using these tents as their makeshift classrooms and dormitories.

Some of them are holding classes under the trees. Despite these poor living conditions, the students are determined to continue on with their Bible courses.

"I was so afraid. They threw stones at our dormitory. They wanted to execute us," explained first year student Santa Maria. "Because of the trauma, I am disturbed every time I see people in Muslim clothes. But I don't want to be angry with them. I need to pray for them."

The attacks have forced the Arastamar Evangelical Theology School to temporarily shut down its 20-year-old campus. The area is now heavily guarded by members of the Islamic Defender's Front.

There was a very tense atmosphere as we drove around the school and found this banner that states that the community demands the campus be closed and dissolved. Senny Manave is the spokesperson of the Bible school.

"The FPI attacks every group that opposes them. Unfortunately, even the government cannot control them," he said. "We are moving to a smaller building that the government is giving us. We are undergoing this trial now but God has a plan and we believe in God's time He will change everything and He will help us to stand again."

Elsewhere in Jakarta, just two weeks ago, a similar banner prohibiting Christian activity, was also placed in front of this Pentecostal house church after its members were attacked by the radical Muslim group while they were having their independence day worship service. The head pastor of the church, Chris Ambessa, says the attack came after he failed to comply with an agreement he was forced to sign to close down his church.

"I was forced to sign the agreement because they threatened to burn our house and I was afraid for my three little children. As a citizen of this country, I feel sad because our human rights are violated. The church has no freedom to worship and it is only the Muslim fundamentalists who take control.

In the midst of severe persecution, the Christians here believe that with God's help, they will be able to stand the test. And for the students of Arastamar, they are determined to pass this test of faith with flying colors.

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

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