Nine churches in Aceh Singkil regency, Aceh province, Indonesia, were torn down from Oct. 19-23, following religious violence on Oct. 13 that left a church burned, a person dead and an estimated 8,000 Christians displaced. All refugees have been repatriated by the government.
Apart from the 10 unlicensed churches previously listed for closure, Muslim extremists demanded that two other churches, which were known for their big congregations, be demolished by Oct. 23.
“Or else, the radicals will deploy around 7,000 people to attack,” said Rudy (not his real name), a local church leader. “The government gave in to the extremists’ demand.”
Church members wept as they watched in despair as civil police officers demolished their worship houses. Around 1,000 churchless believers are prohibited from raising temporary tents to hold Sunday worship service. Instead, they were advised to go to churches in other villages.
Meanwhile, another 13 churches that were not in the closure list have been given six months to apply for a permit. The government also promised a worship center for those whose churches have been destroyed, but many Christians are skeptical as permits are difficult to obtain and the government’s promises for minorities are rarely delivered.
Please pray for the body of Christ in Aceh Singkil to be strong throughout the trials. Most of them are still in deep trauma, even after returning home. Tensions have subsided, but the presence of police and military personnel remains strong.
“Seeing them (police) makes us anxious. That’s why we gather more often to strengthen one another,” said Rudy.
Pray for all churches in Indonesia to be united and show solidarity in this crisis, and for the national government to uphold the rights of religious minority groups in the country.
Also, pray regarding a recent development. A prominent Muslim leader in Aceh Singkil, the person who leads prayers in a mosque. Baihaqi (a.k.a Abuya Batu Korong), passed away due to illness on Oct. 24. Abuya is said to have been the key person behind the church closures and had considerable influence over the government. Pray that his death will help improve the religious situation in the region.
Indonesia is ranked #47 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.