“Three Women Arrested, Charged,” from Compass Direct, with thanks to Nicolei:
June 23 (Compass) — A Muslim council has accused three Indonesian women of attempting to convert Muslim children. Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun were arrested on May 13 and taken to the Indramayu State Prison, where they await trial.
Dr. Zakaria is the pastor of Gereja Kristen Kemah Daud (GKKD), or Christian Church of David’s Camp, located in the small town of Harguelis, Indramayu district, West Java….
After the National Education System Bill became law in June 2003, all public schools were required to provide religious education for children of religious minorities attending their schools (see Compass Direct, “A New Twist on Indonesia’s Controversial Education Bill,” September 12, 2003.)
The school in Babakan Jati had no means of providing Christian education, and therefore asked the GKKD church to provide teachers and an appropriate program. The Christian students would then be evaluated at the end of each semester and given the required marks in their school reports.
The women of the GKKD church set up a “Happy Sunday” program, with Christian songs, games and Bible study for the children. The program was run by Bangun and Pangesti, under the direction of their pastor, Zakaria.
Program Attracts Muslim Attention
After running for approximately 18 months, the number of children attending the program had grown to 40 — but only 10 were from Christian homes.
The Muslim children attended the popular program with the full consent of their parents. Some of them began to sing Christian songs at school and at home, and this attracted the attention of Islamic elders who, in December 2004, forced the church to close.
The women then continued to run the Happy Sunday program from Pangesti’s home.
On March 26, they organized an Easter bus tour to the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, an amusement park in Jakarta. Each of the participating children was given a t-shirt displaying the name of the church and the Star of David logo, so that the teachers could keep track of them during the outing.
The children had also received gifts on other occasions. For example, at Christmas time each child was given a carry bag.
During the tour, one of the children asked for and received a Bible from one of the teachers.
Muslim Complaint Leads to Arrests
As a result, Islamic leaders approached church staff and demanded that Muslim children no longer be allowed to attend the program. A complaint was also made to the Indramayu District Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) council. As a result, the local MUI chairman, K. H. Muzakir Mahmud, made an official complaint to the Indramayu police.
On May 1, a local Islamic leader interviewed four of the Muslim children who had attended the Happy Sunday program and recorded their answers on video.
The children were asked whether the women had ever offered them money, to which they responded, “No.” However all the children said they had received gifts, and one told the interviewer that he had asked for and been given a Bible.
On the evening of May 13, the three women were arrested and taken to the police station for questioning. They were accused of breaching the Child Protection Law, Chapter 86, No. 23/2002. If convicted, they could be sentenced for up to five years and fined 1,000,000,000 rupees ($103,600).