While the more overt acts of religious intolerance in Indonesia, say the beheadings of Christian schools girls, garner the most attention, the steady but covert campaign to intimidate Indonesia’s Christian population continues with very little fanfare. The latest incarnation, from Voice of America:
Christian groups in Indonesia say their right to worship freely is being hindered by conservative Muslim groups that have forced more than 30 churches to close this year. However, Muslim groups charge that Christians are violating the law by using shops and houses as places of worship.
As real estate it is not much. Wedged in beside a major highway, off a dirty little lane and behind a Muslim boarding school, it is hard to imagine that these two houses have become the focus of a dispute in the Jakarta suburb of Jatimulya.
Last month, a group of white-robed young men, wearing the peci caps of devout Muslims, arrived and blockaded the houses, which had been serving as the Jatimulya Protestant church.
A sign declares that the buildings were closed on behalf of local government, because nearby Muslim residents objected to the house being used as a place of worship. Under the law, religious groups must obtain permission from local residents before they can build a mosque or a church.
But Reverend Ana Nenoharan, the minister of the Jatimulya church, says it was not local residents, but students from a boarding school outside the suburb, who forced the church closed. She says that the closures are always done by outsiders, because her congregation knows all the Muslims in the area.
Christian groups say more than 30 churches have been forced to close in Indonesia over the past year. Most reportedly were intimidated by a group called the Anti-Apostasy Alliance. Their tactic is to accuse Christians of breaking the law by praying in unlicensed churches, and claiming that local Muslims object to the churches.