A group of over 150 Muslim fundamentalists forced the closure of four churches in West Java province, Indonesia on December 8 resulting in over 500 believers unable to worship at their respective church buildings. The four churches are the Indonesian Full Gospel Church (GISI), Pentecostal Movement Church (GGP), Indonesian Bethel Church (GBI), and Christian New Covenant Church (GKPB). For more than two months, over 500 believers in Indonesia have been unable to worship at their respective church buildings.
Thankfully, all four congregations have been allowed to use the halls of three unaffected churches in the region. “They’re still in good spirit, but uncertainty lingers. Using other church buildings is just a temporary solution; they’re not sure how long it could last,” said Pastor Oferlin Hia of GKPB.
Before the closure, the four churches, along with another church that managed to stay open, had been threatened by at least 70 fundamentalists who protested at the church premises during the Sunday worship services on Nov. 17 and Dec. 1. Aside from verbal threats, physical violence also took place as one believer was assaulted while taking photos of the protests. Police officers were present, but did little to reduce the tensions. Civil police officers, tasked with enforcing local laws, even assisted the protesters in sealing the church buildings.
The mobs demanded that the churches obtain a permit to hold Christian gatherings. The churches had been operating in house-offices, store-like buildings whose original function was not for religious activities. “We had been applying for a permit, but local government officials didn’t respond although all requirements had been met,” explained Pastor Hia. According to the laws, a church must have at least 90 congregation members, and gain the consent of at least 60 neighbors to secure a building permit.
Pastor Hia, who also heads the Inter-Church Cooperation Body (BKSAG) of Cianjur, has attempted to reopen the churches through official channels. He has lodged a report to the Inter-Religious Harmony Forum (FKUB) and a plea to the regency head, asking the latter to provide an alternate venue for the churches. However, the regency chief has yet to respond. Until a solution is found, the 500 believers have to worship under the realization that church is more than a building. “Hardships may come, but they only serve as opportunities to work all the more for His kingdom and to glorify Him,” added Pastor Hia in contemplation.
Father, we praise You for the privilege of coming before You in worship, whether we gather in a cathedral or under a tree. Thank You for these believers in Indonesia who are deeply committed to worshiping and serving You regardless of their circumstances. We pray for favor among government officials to respond quickly on behalf of these churches, and for tenacity and wisdom as Pastor Hia leads the struggle to reopen the churches. We pray for protection over these congregations and for unity among all the churches that others will reach out with help to the troubled congregations. Uplift the leaders and members of these four congregations that they might remain firm in their faith and not be dismayed by the trials before them. We pray for Your wisdom and discernment as Open Doors assesses the situation to develop the most suitable assistance. In the name of Jesus who upholds and sustains His church, Amen.