A local official and other Muslims on Sunday (June 18) stopped worship at a house church outside Jakarta, Indonesia, and a church site in Central Java Province was temporarily blocked, according to local reports.
In West Java Province, a group of Muslims said to be led by a neighborhood official disrupted the worship service of mostly women at a house in Tambun Selatan, Bekasi, on Jakarta’s eastern border, according to the Twitter account @terang_media.
It identified the location as Blok S.2 Graha Prima Baru Mangunjaya, in Tambun Selatan. Video footage showed a man said to be the neighborhood official using harsh language against a woman trying to defend the fellowship.
In the video, a female pastor later identified as Elysson Lase tries to pacify protestors, telling them the congregation didn’t construct a church building and was only worshipping in a private home.
“We want to hold a worship service – should I ask permission to worship from you when we want to hold worship?” Pastor Lase asks. “The important thing has been conveyed to the village office, that we are not building a church. So what’s the problem? When we pray, where is the problem?”
She states that the Inter-Religious Harmony Forum (Forum Kerja Sama Umat Beragama, or FKUB), recently told a gathering of Muslims that Christians need no permission to hold worship services in a private home. Indonesian law does not require a permit for worship in a home, the Twitter account writer states, “but unscrupulous residents insist” it does.
The Rev. Henrek Lokra of the Communion of Christian Churches (Persekutuan Gereja-Gereja Indonesia, or PGI) said the disruption was illegal, and that the government should take tough action and enforce the constitution against such vigilante acts.
“The Christians don’t build churches,” Pastor Lokra told Morning Star News. “They only want to hold their routine Sunday worship. If it is not allowed, then where is this country heading?”
About 467 miles east of Jakarta in Central Java Province, a group of Muslims shouting the jihadist slogan “Allahu Akbar [God is greater]” on Sunday (June 18) blocked entry into a church building by placing a banner over the door stating that it had no right to exist, according to jpnn.com.
They put another banner on the road in front of the building of the house church, a Javanese Christian Church (Gereja Kristen Jawa, or GKJ) in Banyuanyar village, Banjasari Sub-District, in the municipality of Solo. The Muslims put up the banners as they completed a parade for the first day of the Dhu al-Hijja (Day of Sacrifice) celebration, according to jpnn.com.
The mayor of Solo, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, visited the site on Monday (June 19) with police and ordered his staff members to remove the banners, according to tribunnews.com.
The head of Banjarsari Sub-District, Beni Supartono Putro, said the opposition arose because local Christians lacked a permit to hold worship services in the building, according to jpnn.com.
“The reason is because they got no permit and held an unlicensed worship service,” he said.
Requirements for obtaining permission to build houses of worship in Indonesia are onerous and hamper the establishment of such buildings for Christians and other faiths, rights advocates say. Indonesia’s Joint Ministerial Decree of 2006 (SKB) makes requirements for obtaining permits nearly impossible for most new churches.
Even when small, new churches are able to meet the requirement of obtaining 90 signatures of approval from congregation members and 60 from area households of different religions, they are often met with delays or lack of response from officials. Well-organized radical Muslims secretly mobilize outside people to intimidate and pressure members of minority faiths.
The Joint Ministerial Decree of 2006 allows local government to provide a temporary permit for churches to meet while applications are pending.
Indonesia ranked 33rd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Indonesian society has adopted a more conservative Islamic character, and churches involved in evangelistic outreach are at risk of being targeted by Islamic extremist groups, according to Open Doors’ WWL report.
“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.”