Many Churches Forced to Close in Indonesia
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
BANDUNG, INDONESIA (ANS) -- A Christian Freedom International fact-find mission to Indonesia reveals alarming and growing evidence of religious persecution against minority Christians.
According to Christian Freedom International president Jim Jacobson, "Religious persecution targeting minority Christians in Indonesia, particularly in West Java, is both systemic and systematic."
Jacobson conducted a fact-finding mission to Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic nation, in September 2005, visiting numerous forcibly closed churches in West Java.
Christian Freedom International urges the Indonesia government to allow religious freedom, to intervene and stop the forced shutdown of churches, and to denounce the radical Islamic group known as AGAP.
AGAP is an abbreviation for Aliansi Gerakan Ant Pemurtadan, which translated into English means Anti-Apostasy Alliance Movement.
According to Jacobson, "AGAP has a mission to close churches and basically eradicate Christianity in Indonesia. They use fear, intimidation, threats, and obscure government regulations, in cooperation with local officials, to accomplish their goal."
The following is typical of the statements Christian Freedom International heard from members of closed down churches in and around Bandung.
"I was cleaning up after the 5:00 p.m. worship service," said Jacob. "AGAP came through the doors. These were not our neighbors; they were from the outside. More than 50 of them came into the church, wearing masks and carrying swords and backpacks of stones. I was so afraid."
"They were very angry," said Jacob. "They were shouting, 'Allah Akbar.' I went out to call for help from the neighbors and call the police to come. The police came but did nothing."
Jacob said, "The AGAP came in around 10:00 p.m. They left at 3:00 a.m. the next morning. They said this is the last time you can worship here. They said we must not worship here again."
At least 35 churches in Bandung and neighboring regions have been closed by Islamic mobs during the past 12 months alone.
A free copy of the Christian Freedom International fact-finding report entitled "Churches Forced to Close in Indonesia" can be viewed or downloaded online by visiting www.christianfreedom.org. The report contains testimonials, lists of closed-down churches, facts and information regarding how AGAP is methodically attacking Christianity.
Christian Freedom International (CFI) is an interdenominational human rights organization for religious liberty helping persecuted Christians. Mr. Jacobson is a former White House policy analyst.
Michael Ireland is an international British freelance journalist. A former reporter with a London newspaper, Michael is the Chief Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Garden Grove, Calif. Michael immigrated to the United States in 1982 and became a U.S. citizen in September 1995. He is married with two children. Michael has also been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station.
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