Religious violence broke out between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia’s Aceh province on October 13, three months after an inter-faith riot flared in Papua. At least one person was killed and eight were injured in clashes that followed a church arson by Islam extremists in the regency of Aceh Singkil.
Thousands of Christians have fled to the neighboring province of North Sumatra as a result. “Fearing subsequent attacks, around 8,000 people fled to Central Tapanuli and West Pakpak regencies the night after the church burning,” said Rev. Erde Berutu of the Pakpak Dairi Christian Protestant Church (GKPPD) to a representative of Open Doors.
The local governments are now working on repatriating the refugees. However, many of the displaced Christians are still fearful. “There is no guarantee of safety from the state. For us, safety goes beyond the physical; it means that we can have our church back and can exercise our freedom to worship,” said Rev. Erde, whose church was also burned to ashes last month. Terror messages circulated by Muslim radicals also prevented the Christians from coming back.
“The displaced Christians live in scarcity and desperately need clean water, food, clothes, baby food, blankets, and medicines,” reported an Open Doors’ informant.
Aceh is the only province that enforces the Sharia (Islamic) Law, making it one of the most hostile places for Indonesian non-Muslims, especially Christians. The region saw three decades of bloody separatist insurgency that only ended in 2005, after the national government granted special autonomy for the region, including the privilege to enforce Sharia penal code.
Indonesia is ranked #47 on the Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. Though a secular nation, Indonesia hosts the world’s largest Muslim population and has seen a rapid increase in Islamic fundamentalism and violent attacks against not only churches but also Islamic sects deemed as deviant.
Compiled by Janelle Powers. For media inquiries, contact Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.