The Batak Karo Protestant Church (GBKP) in East Bandung, West Java was forced to stop its April 10th opening celebrations as Islamic radical groups questioned the legality of their church permits. Ridwan Kamil, one of Indonesia’s most popular and revered city mayors, refrained from attending the ceremony in respect of the mob’s demand. If he had attended, the mob would have continued their protests.
The GBKP Bandung, established in 1962, has two branches in the city, including the East Bandung chapter, which was founded in 2009, and serves around 800 members. Though the church obtained its building permit on June 20, 2012, it had not yet been able to utilize the building as a house of worship due to the pressure from Muslim radicals to verify the church’s licensing documents. On December 18, 2015, the government and related agencies finally endorsed the building’s legality, seemingly ending GBKP’s long fight to use it for religious activities.
“Therefore, I don’t understand why the extremists were allowed by the government to question the legality of our church permits. This is beyond their jurisdiction,” said Rev. Sura Purba Saputra, the East Bandung’s pastor. Rev. Saputra counters that the legality in question should be the right of these extremists to question the documents and their effort to stop the City Mayor from attending the ceremony.
West Java has a strong Islamic majority and is reported to be second only to Aceh among Indonesia’s most hostile area for religious minorities.
Father God, we pray for these legal battles that are used to stop the worship of this congregation. We pray for the Rev. Saputra and other church leaders as they sort through their response to these battles. Pour out upon them Your wisdom and discernment that their response will be both effective and honoring to the name of Christ. Holy Spirit, be their advocate before the authorities that their right to assemble for worship might be protected. We pray for the civil authorities to fulfill their responsibility to protect the rights of their citizens; strengthen them to deal firmly with the radicals. And we pray for Your church to stand strong spiritually as they live out their faith in this hostile environment. May Your name be lifted high in the nation of Indonesia. In the name of Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. Amen.