A banner in front of a mosque in Indonesia received worldwide exposure this week when a photograph of it spread through Twitter and Facebook. The banner said, “All Amil, Ustadj, Ustadjah [the officials of the mosque] in Pondok Jagung Timur a Muslim place of worship will ‘reject/refuse’ to prepare the body of [dead] Muslims who approved/agreed to the building of a church in the area.”
When a Muslim dies, the family asks the religious clerics of the local mosque for help in preparing the body of the deceased; the process involves washing, praying over and burying the body. The religious clerics are well versed in the necessary burial rituals, which are believed to help the soul go to the “right place.” If the local mosque rejects or refuses to perform the rituals, many Muslims believe the soul will not be able to rest in peace.
The mosque in question is located in South Tangerang, Banten province, an Islamic stronghold. In spite of Muslim radicals strong opposition to churches and Christians, a few churches can still be found operating in some areas of this province. Islamic officials in South Tangerang have become increasingly strict, even warning many restaurant owners in South Tangerang against allowing Christians to sing their songs during any celebration held in their establishments. Muslims, however, are allowed to hold Quran recitations in public places.
The banner was put up after rumors circulated that a Jewish church would be built in the area. According to a local Christian worker, opposition arose from the Islam Defender Front (FPI) when a church denomination applied for a permit to build a church. FPI has had a hand in many of the church closures in Indonesia’s Java and Sumatra provinces.
Pressure from members of radical groups such as FPI has caused Muslim communities in Indonesia to think twice before agreeing to the construction of any church. Instead of direct opposition and confrontation with pastors and church workers, FPI has been promoting their radical agenda by pushing local Muslims to block churches from obtaining a building permit. Such was the case of the HKBP Church in Setu, whose half-constructed church building was demolished by local officials in March.
Father, we pray for Muslim Background Believers in Indonesia who face much opposition from Muslim extremists. Thank You for Your protection over them; grant them continued protection and strength as they serve You. Grant both wisdom and courage to Christian workers in various Indonesian provinces, and protect them as they labor for Your glory. Knowing You are more powerful than all the opposition, we call on You to dispel their power that they might not hinder the expansion of Your kingdom. In the name of Jesus who is gathering together His church in Indonesia, Amen.