Islamic law forbids subject Christians to build new churches or repair old ones. “After Sealing of Bekasi Church, Another Comes Under Threat of Closure,” from the Jakarta Globe, March 8:
The Banua Niha Keriso Protestan (BNKP) in Bandung, West Java, was bracing for a confrontation on Friday after a group of local leaders demanded the church cease operations, a religious tolerance group said.
The church was told to take down all Christian icons and vacate the building by a small group led by a local neighborhood chief, according to a statement by the Indonesian Committee of Religions for Peace (ICRP).
When church leaders refused to comply, the men promised to return with a larger group, the statement read.
“We are expecting that after the Friday prayers, [neighborhood chief] Haj Ayi, and Samidin and an even larger group will come to the church and disturb it again,” Theophilus Bela, the chairman of the Jakarta Forum of Christian Communication (FKKJ), said.
The threats coincided with the forced closure of HKBP Setu Church in Bekasi, West Java, by the local public order agency (Satpol PP).
Officers shuttered HKBP Setu on Thursday over complaints that it lacked a necessary building permit.
This latest round of anti-Christian actions came weeks after West Java re-elected its Islamist governor Ahmad Heryawan, of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
Ahmad inked a deal with the province’s hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) the day before the election promising to rid the province of the minority Muslim Ahmadiyah sect and instill Islamic values.
Churches have long faced closure in West Java. The St. Johannes Baptista Church in Bogor was sealed over similar complaints last year.
Christians make up less than 10 percent of Indonesia’s population. Both Catholicism and Protestantism are protected under the pancasila as two of the six officially recognized religions.
But Christians routinely face opposition from terrorist groups, community leaders and government officials.