Continue to pray for churches in Indonesia’s Aceh Singkil regency, especially as they are facing yet another potential setback in the local election.
Last October, nine churches in Aceh Singkil regency were torn down following religious violence on October 13 that left a church burned, one person dead and an estimated 8,000 Christians displaced. Muslim extremists demanded that two other churches, known for their large congregations, be demolished by Oct. 23. A local church leader lamented that “The government gave in to the extremists’ demand.”
The 11 churches that were shut down in last year’s wave of religious violence are still struggling to obtain the needed building permits. Recently, Singkil’s public works department announced that the churches must review their buildings’ plans and size. The stipulated formula for determining building dimensions is the number of church members owning a local identity card times 0.8 meters. As a result, churches whose congregations mostly come from outside villages will be allotted smaller buildings.
The local election is scheduled for February 2017 in conjunction with nationwide elections, but registration of candidates began in August. With only a few weeks left before the election excitement hits the regency, the churches have been anxiously hoping to receive the government’s decision on their permits by the end of August. Once the government becomes absorbed in election activities, it will be nearly impossible to accomplish other business. The reality they are facing is that “if the license is not issued before September, we fear that it will be completely forgotten.”
One of the major concerns, according to a Christian activist from Singkil, is that the political candidates for the February election are even more religiously intolerant than the current leaders. This may pose an even greater problem for the local churches.
Father, You have established Your church in Aceh Singkil and Your hand is upon her even now in her struggles. Strengthen her now in the midst of these unrelenting challenges to her existence. Grant church leaders wisdom in the face of any new regulations that may be set before them as roadblocks in the new administration. Help them to respond in calm, godly confidence in Your strength and sovereign presence. We thank You for the persistent faithfulness of those congregations that continue to worship each week under tents. Even there, Your presence surrounds them, but we pray that You will soon restore them to permanent places of worship. And we pray that You will soften the hearts of political leaders in Aceh to uphold the nation’s laws that grant religious freedom. One day soon, may a mighty voice of praise be heard from all the many islands of Indonesia. In the name of Jesus at whose name “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. Amen.