Bomb Attack and Church Closures Spark Fears of Increased Persecution
A bomb exploded on May 15th in Ambon, Indonesia, injuring 55 people, many of them Christians. The incident happened during “Pattimura Day,” when people from across the country carry torches from Saparua Island to Ambon City in memory of their national hero, Kapitan Pattimura. Ten years ago, Ambon was the scene of serious conflicts between Muslims and Christians, but recent efforts towards reconciliation had done much to dispel the tensions.
Elsewhere in the country among the Christian community, fears of a government crackdown are growing following the April election of a hard-line Islamic governor in Aceh Province. Seventeen churches have been shut down so far this month in what is seen as a response to the authorities’ failure to contain church growth.
Emboldened by the election of Zaini Abdullah, a representative from the militant Islamist Aceh Party, hundreds of Islamists recently held a demonstration demanding that church buildings be demolished. According to Jeirry Simampow, Diakonia Secretary of the Indonesian Fellowship of Churches, the demonstrators were upset because the number of churches in the region has grown significantly. “The number of Christians has reached 12,000,” said Simampow. “Some houses are forced to function as churches, and some buildings are only semi-permanent.”
The order to close churches has left many church leaders in a very difficult position. “This position was supported by the police chief, who said that the time for dialogue was past,” said one pastor. “All he wanted was a schedule of the church demolitions. It’s not that Christians do not want to apply for permits, but it is extremely difficult to secure permission even though we have put forth our maximal efforts.”
Father, we lift up the victims of the bombing in Ambon. We pray for their healing and comfort, and we pray that the police will be impartial as they investigate and that justice will prevail. We pray for church leaders and Christians in Aceh that they will be bold in their stand for Christ, but that in that boldness You will grant wisdom and godly humility. Thank You that You are growing Your church in Indonesia even in the midst of persecution. Draw Muslims increasingly into Your presence that they might be convicted of their need for You. As they turn in repentance, fill them with the joy and freedom of forgiveness and new life. In the name of Jesus who is building His church, Amen.