Indonesia Christians Kicked Out of Church Buildings

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WEST JAVA, Indonesia -- In recent months, many Christian churches have been forcibly closed in the world's most populous Muslim nation. But despite the religious intolerance, some churches are also acquiring their own buildings.

It took the Indonesian Reformed Evangelical Church 16 years to gain permission to build its building, which has now become the largest Christian church in Jakarta, Indonesia.

That congregation's story has a happy ending, but others are still struggling.

Just a two hour drive from the capital, the Batak Karo Protestant Church was sealed off even after obtaining a building permit. Muslims in the area felt the multi-function hall should not be used as a Christian church.

A banner was placed on the building saying, "We warned you not to have any Christian activity in this hall. Now, we are sealing this building."

"Our church has 250 members. As far as we know, we have been obeying what the government requires," church elder Eliezer Meliala said. "And yet they didn't do anything to protect us from those protesters."

"They told us to get a permit so we can do church activities, but now that we have it, they say we should build first the church structure," he continued. "Unfortunately, we don't yet have sufficient funds."

Dr. Ahmad is the leader of an anti-proselytizing movement. He stressed that it is essential for both Muslims and Christians to follow the laws regarding places of worship.

"There is no such thing as they can't pray or worship. It is the place they use that is closed down," he said. "They should not claim that houses are churches because they are not. In the same way, the Muslim cannot pray in a shop and say that is a mosque."

"Aside from legalizing the place of worship,Christians should follow the ethical code and should not spread their religion to people who already have their own beliefs," he added. "That is when the fire ignites and conflict arises. Let us not fish from other ponds. Let us mind our own business, respect each other so we can live in harmony."

But Christians often worship in houses because the government rarely gives them permission to construct church buildings.

In the midst of this crisis, Batak Karo Protestant Church hasn't given up meeting regularly. Every week, congregants come to an undisclosed place to pray and study God's word.

"We need to be patient. We should not provoke the Muslims who sealed our place of worship," Pastor Rena Tetty said. "Instead, we should pray and wait. We don't know how long it will take, but we believe God will vindicate us because nothing is impossible with Him."

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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