(Voice of the Persecuted) On Tuesday, VOP began receiving reports regarding a Christmas Celebration Revival Service led by Rev. Stephen Tong at a popular event venue in Bandung, West Java. The service was disbanded after members of two Muslim organizations, the Pembela Ahlu Sunnah (PAS) and Dewan Dakwah Islam (DDI) stormed the event.
Bandung Police spokesman, Commissioner, Reny Marthaliana issued a statement which claimed “the event had been rejected by the two Muslim groups who argued that Christian meetings were illegal in a public space and should only take place in church buildings.
West Java police said technical difficulties and an incomplete permit for the event was the reason behind the aggression. But VOP was informed that the Reformed Injili Indonesia Church had obtained legal permission and all permit requirements to hold the services had been fulfilled, including submitting notifications to the government and police.
After mediation failed between church members, protesters and the police, the event organizers agreed to end the Christmas celebration. As they closed the service, the congregation prayed and began to sing ‘Silent Night’. The hymn appeared to agitate the protesters. Bandung’s Police Chief then took control and stopped the event at 8:30 pm on Tuesday, December 6, 2016. In disappointment, the congregation peacefully left the premises.
Naturally, the Christians fear possible further oppression, but said,
“In Christ, they will face any oppression and encourage each other in prayer following Rev. Stephen Tong lead.”
Indonesian Christians were saddened by the news and took to social media to express their solidarity, pray and encourage one another.
►”We are sad, but we pray God will forgive and touch the heart of the very people who stopped tonight service to understand that Jesus has come to save man from the wrath of God. We will remember the message from our Pastor Rev. Stephen Tong : ‘Christmas is not a day to hate, but a day to love.’ Jesus said in John 3:16 (ESV): For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. You only live once, repent from your sin, believe in Jesus and receive eternal life.”
► “This is proof of the failure of the government of the city of Bandung in protecting the citizens of the country to serve the people who also face intolerance. Proof religious worship is getting difficult. Still give thanks to the Lord no matter what.”
►”I mourn the loss of religious freedom in this country, … a country that is (supposed to be) based on tolerance towards different religions, races and ethnicity. As much as I question the authority’s absence, as much as I long for tolerance and mutual respect, I know I must learn to love and forgive. May God help me. Two things I know for sure though: 1. CHRISTmas is about love, NOT hatred. 2. No one could / should stop any massive Christmas service held at Monas in the future.”
Indonesia’s version of Islam is often described as peaceful, tolerant. For the most part, Muslims in Indonesia are moderate. But in recent years, discrimination and persecution against Christians by hardliners as risen.
Concerns of violence from hardliners increased after protests of Jakarta’s first Chinese-Christian governor, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama who has been accused of blasphemy. Next week, he will be brought to trial at a Jakarta court concerning the charge. Many believe the charge is not only religious, but also political. Ahok, who had been favored to win, seeks reelection in February 2017.
Christians expressed to VOP,
►”We are now facing oppression from the Muslim community because of the Christian Governor of Jakarta. “Voices of hatred towards the Chinese and Christian people are now increasing thru my country.”
►”There are more and more hardliners Muslim in Indonesia, including some of my high school friends.
►”I also live among Muslims in my neighborhood. I know some of them also include the hardliners. When we talk about Ahok, they seem a bit angry. They don’t want a Christian as Jakarta’s leader. They will do anything to prevent that.”
► “Rev. Tong asked all of us to not have hate in our hearts but to pray for the hardliners”
Indonesia is constitutionally a secular state with Islam being the dominant religion in the country. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population than any other country in the world. Christians represent seven percent of the population.
The following information was taken from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Indonesia Chapter – 2016 Annual Report
Incidents of discrimination against religious minorities and attacks on religious properties continue to occur in Indonesia, typically isolated incidents localized in certain provinces. Radical groups perpetrate many of these attacks and influence the responses of local government officials when violence occurs. These groups target non-Muslims, such as Christians, and non-Sunni Muslims whose practice of Islam falls outside what the groups deem acceptable. Encouragingly, in 2015, President Joko Widodo, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, and other government officials regularly spoke out against religious-based violence. While such statements are in stark contrast to the previous administration’s open support for radical groups, the longstanding policies and practices that motivate and provide cover for radical groups’ actions against religious communities remain in place and continue to mar Indonesia’s prospects for genuine religious freedom. Based on these concerns, in 2016 USCIRF again places Indonesia on Tier 2, where it has been since 2003.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country: more than 87 percent of the nearly 256 million population identify as Muslim. While the vast majority of Indonesia’s Muslims are Sunni, up to three million are Shi’a and up to 400,000 Ahmadi. Christians represent seven percent of the population, Catholics nearly three percent, and Hindus nearly two percent. However, in some areas of the country, Christians or Hindus comprise the majority. Indonesia recognizes six religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. Smaller segments of the population practice unrecognized faiths, such as Sikhs, Jews, Baha’is, and Falun Gong. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his administration have demonstrated a more inclusive approach toward religious communities, which has helped mitigate some religious-based violence. The government is working on a religious protection bill that is expected to address issues such as houses of worship and the treatment of non-recognized religious groups. Those familiar with drafts of the bill, including Indonesia’s independent National Human Rights Commission, Komnas HAM, have raised concerns it includes problematic language from existing policies and regulations. In the meantime, existing discriminatory policies are still in place.
Last year, after the horric attacks on the Christian community in in Aceh Singkil, a letter from Voice of the Persecuted was hand delivered to Indonesia’s President Jokowi regarding the extreme pressure Indonesian Christians are facing, particularly in Aceh province. view here.
- Please pray for Indonesian Christians and for those in power able to bring justice and laws of protection for those abused.
- Pray for the spread of the Gospel as Christianity is growing in the majority Muslim populated country.
- Pray for a safe Christmas in Indonesia.