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(World Watch List) The Eritrean government has released on bail more than 20 prisoners who’d been in detention for years because of their faith, the BBC reports.
It says sources have said that the prisoners are from Christian evangelical and Pentecostal denominations, some held in a prison outside the capital Asmara.
In 2002 Eritrea introduced a new law that forbids all Churches except for the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran ones. Sunni Islam is also officially recognized.
According to a religious freedom campaigner from Asmara, but now based in North America, Hannibal Daniel, people who’d been in prison for about 16 years have been freed on bail.
A regional spokesperson for charity Open Doors International said that, for some time, it had heard discussion that prisoners might be freed on bail due to the coronavirus pandemic (as has happened in several other countries) but could not independently confirm the reports: “If true, this could be quite significant.”
The Eritrean government has not responded to BBC requests for confirmation or denial. Previously, it’s dismissed accusations of intolerance to religious freedom.
In May 2019, a monitoring group for the UN said “thousands” of Christians are facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea” and questioned why the UN was not monitoring the situation more closely.
In June 2019, Thomson Reuters reported that more than 500,000 refugees worldwide have left Eritrea, up from 486,200 a year earlier.
Many flee compulsory military service, but others flee political or religious persecution.
That same month, the government seized all Catholic-run health clinics in the country, and arrested five Orthodox priests. These moves prompted the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Eritrea, Daniela Kravetz, to call on the government to uphold religious freedom for its citizens and “release those who have been imprisoned for their religious beliefs.”
In August 2019, Eritrea’s Orthodox patriarch, Abune Antonios, was expelled by pro-government bishops of his Church, accused of heresy; he remained in detention throughout 2019.
Antonios had been under house arrest since 2007, when he refused to comply with the regime’s attempts to interfere with church affairs.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom says Eritrea is a ‘Country of Particular Concern’, saying “In 2019, religious freedom conditions in Eritrea worsened, with increasing interference in and restrictions on religious groups. In spite of the significant regional political changes and the 2018 peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Eritrea continues to have one of the worst religious freedom records in the world, and has shown little interest in concretely improving the situation”. The State Department estimates there are between 1200 and 3000 prisoners held for their faith. USCIRF included some of those cases in its new Victims List.
Some prisoners, such as the leader of the Full Gospel Church, have been in prison for more than 15 years.
A year, ago, 70 Christians detained included 35 women and 10 children
At least 150 Eritrean Christians were arrested by government officials during summer 2019, with some held in an underground prison made up of tunnels.
For instance on 18 August, 2019, Eritrean security officials detained 80 Christians from Godayef, an area near Asmara airport.
Four days later, on 22 August, the United Nations observed its first annual commemoration of victims of religiously motivated violence. “On this day, we reaffirm our unwavering support for the victims of violence based on religion and belief. And we demonstrate that support by doing all in our power to prevent such attacks and demanding that those responsible are held accountable,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
The government’s 2019 clampdown on evangelical Christians had begun in June 2019 when security officials arrested 70 members (among them 35 women and 10 children) of the Faith Mission Church of Christ, in Eritrea’s second city, Keren. These were taken to Ashufera prison, 25kms from the city.
The prison is a vast underground tunnel system and conditions in which detainees are held are very harsh, a local source said. It’s far from a main road, the source said, which “means that anyone who wants to visit has to walk a minimum of 30 minutes to reach the entrance.
Inmates are forced to dig additional tunnels when officers need extra space for more prisoners.”
After the 2019 arrests, government officials also closed the church-run school, said the local source, whose identity World Watch Monitor withheld for security reasons.
The Faith Mission Church of Christ was the last church still open in the majority-Muslim city, 90kms northwest of Asmara. Started over 60 years ago, the Church once had schools and orphanages all over the country, according to religious freedom advocacy group CSW.
It had been waiting for registration since it submitted an application in 2002 when the government introduced the new law. This clampdown sent other Christians in Keren into hiding, the source said.
Eritrea is 6th on the Open Doors 2020 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
(Agenzia Fides) – It is necessary to inform the Supreme Court of hate speech against religious minorities in Pakistan present in textbooks and highlight the discrimination in the education system: with this objective, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), NGOs led by the Pakistani Catholic Peter Jacob, presented a petition to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The NGO is at the service of human rights and social justice, especially the marginalized.
The petition also mentions the note of the Court on 19 June 2014 in which the Court asked the federal government to set up a task force with the aim of developing a strategy for religious tolerance. The text sent to Fides points out the need “to develop appropriate curricula to promote a culture of religious and social tolerance in schools and universities”, but acknowledges that the provincial governments “have not implemented the removal of discrimination and religious prejudices to improve the quality of textbooks or to impart quality education”.
The petition is accompanied by examples of hate speech against religious minorities, present in textbooks in use. “The existence of such prejudices challenge the religious, civil and democratic values” reads the petition, recalling that “students belonging to religious minorities are required to learn the religious lessons of Islam and pass examinations that may conflict with their religious beliefs on the one hand and could affect their performance in the exams”.
“It is also a form of coercion that students belonging to religious minorities cannot study their religion under the current education system”, a discriminatory condition. For this reason, the petition asks the Court to identify and order “appropriate remedies for the protection of equal rights of religious minorities in the education system”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/11/2015)
#INDONESIA – Thousands of Christians Flee as Churches Burned and Destroyed by Radicals and Government Authorities
(Voice of the Persecuted) Over the last few days, Indonesian Christians under extreme pressure have been sharing reports, photos, videos and their prayers with Voice of the Persecuted. Tensions are high among the Christian communities in Indonesia as radical Muslims burn down their churches and government authorities tear down their places of worship.
In 2006, the controversial Joint Rules set by the Minister of Religious Affairs and the Minister of Home Affairs No. 8 and No. 9, demands states churches cannot be built without providing authorities with a list of names and signatures of 90 congregation members along with written support from at least 60 local residents and a village chief.
This has made it nearly impossible, if at all, for religious minorities to collect the signatures of 60 people required for the permit, particularly if the signatures are needed from citizens whose religion differs from their own.
‘Houses of worship’ are the most visible symbol of a religion and the oppressive government regulations on places of worship have been used to target followers of minority religions, including Christians. Believers relayed to Voice of the Persecuted that many of the Mosques are without permit/license, but those cases are overlooked.
Despite growing intolerance and escalating persecution in the world’s largest Muslim-populated nation, the Church in Indonesia continues to grow.
The province of Aceh is located at the northern end of Sumatra and the only region in Indonesia where Sharia law is officially authorized. Religious tension has been brewing there for months.
A radical Muslim youth group, Aceh Youth Concerned for Islam held protests demanding alleged unlicensed churches be torn down by authorities. Many believe the government’s decision to destroy ten Christian churches came by pressure of Muslim fundamentalists. But Impatiently, Muslim extremists took actions into their own hands and instigated mob violence to destroy Christian buildings and threaten Indonesian believers. Police were deployed but unable to stop the violence as one authority reported they were outnumbered by a mob of 500-800 strong.
When hatred flared, more than 5000 Christians fled their communities and were displaced as internal refugees.
The chronology of attacks and burning of churches by radicals in the district of Aceh Singkil, continued with the demolition of churches carried out by the Government Aceh Singkil by unjustly using SKB 2 menteri ( A decree between minister of religious affair and minister of home affairs in 2006) No. 8 in 2006 on the establishment of House of worship and the 2007 Governor of Aceh regulation No. 25 regarding the establishment Houses of worship.
SKB 2 menteri No. 8, No. 9 and regulation No. 25 applied to the places of worship built after the policies were confirmed. Referring to the history of established churches in Aceh Singkil, the majority stood prior to both regulations.
In translation means…if Houses of Worship were built before 2006 or have historical values and do not have a permit, the local government must help them to obtain the permit. There is no wording in the regulation that the government is authorized to destroy those Houses of Worship.
• August 18 2015, GKPPD Mandumpang was burned by unknown person at Aceh singkil
• Tuesday, October 13th , Hki Church was burned by radical groups At Aceh Singkil * Friday, October 16th , GPIB church was burned by unknown people at Sabang Aceh
• Tuesday, October 19, 2015 at 10:00 held the destruction of church GKPPD Siompin church, GMII Siompin church and Catholic Mandumpang church. ( 3 churches)
• October 20, 2015, The distruction of churches continued, and 2 churches had been demolished: the Church GKPPD Kuta Tinggi church, and GKPPD Tuhtuhen ( 2 churches)
• October 22, 2015, The destruction of the GKPPD Siatas Church and GKPP Sanggaberru Church ( 3 churches)
• The government still has plans to destroy the 2 other churches also in the district of Aceh Singkil.
The following data shows the establishment of churches in Aceh Singkil.
1. GKPPD Kuta Kerangan church , di Kuta Kerangan Village, est. 1932.
2. GKPPD Siatas church in Pertabas est. 1942.
3. GKPPD Kuta Tinggi Church in Kuta Tinggi est. 1943.
4. GKPPD Tuhtuhen church in Tuhtuhen village was established in1948.
5. GKPPD Lae Gecih church in Lae Gecih village est. 1967.
6. GKPPD Mandumpang church in Mandumpang village est. 1950.
7. GKPPD Siompin church in Siompin village est. 1964.
8. GKPPD Keras church in Keras Village est. 1952.
9. GKPPD Guha churchin Guha village was est. 1947.
10. GKPPD Gunung Meriah church in Gunung Meriah village est. 1960
11. GKPPD Sanggaberru church in Sanggaberru village est. 1962.
12. GKPPD Daling Dangguren church in Dangguren village est. 1995.
13. GKPPD Biskang church in Napagaluh village est. 1953.
14. GKPPD Situbuhtubuh in Situbuhtubuh village est. 1989.
15. GMII Siompin church in Siompin village est. 1995.
16. GMII Mandumpang church in Mandumpang village est. 2000.
17. JKI Kuta Kerangan church di Desa Kuta Kerangan Kecamatan Simpang Kanan est. 2003.
18. HKI Gunung Meriah church in Sukamakmur village est. 1968.
19. Catholic church Gunung Meriah in Sukamakmur village est. 1963.
20. Catholic church Lae Mbalno est. 1993.
Based on chronology of the attack that occurred on October 13, 2015 and data in establishing the churches in the district of Aceh Singkil, the GKPPD Church Leaders and NGO’s concerned with freedom of religion, faith, mentoring, advocacy and education in Aceh Singkil hold that:
1.The action of attacking and burning HKI church by radical groups in Aceh Singkil on October 13, 2015 and where the State has participated in facilitating that action through its inability to prevent and crack down on Islamic groups that carried out the attack, expanding affecting conflict area that led to the victims having been displaced out of Aceh Singkil is a violation of Human Rights.
2. Restrictions on the churches in Aceh Singkil is contrary to the Constitution amendment in 1945 Article 29 verse 2 that states that the country to ensure freedom of all citizens to embrace their faith of choice.
On October 24th, The Vice Governor of Aceh said, “The tragedy/conflict of Aceh Singkil is not a big problem/a reasonable thing.” Hearing this, one Christian shared, “Oh my, what kind of leader does Aceh have nowadays? He must be educated about Indonesia’s Laws, the Constitution and Pancasila (five principles).
Messages from our Indonesian brothers and sisters
• I don’t know why they have cruel hearts, but we know our Dear Lord Jesus sees all.
• The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord for the harvest and to provide them with the reapers.
• Unity in diversity is torn to shreds.
• May the Lord Jesus give the best ways to Christians friends in Aceh, they still believe God is not asleep..God is watching all.
Where is the voice of the media?
We only want freedom in our own land, free from discrimination and religious freedom.
Pray for Aceh Singkil
Anxiety and fear, our grief has not passed, the tears have not dried. Who will hear our pleas for Justice.
Goodbye My Church
The church that we have built with great difficulty, the church that we have built with our sweat and tears, now memories that have been flattened.
Word of God, “You will be hated for My Name”
My friends, stay strong, joyful, still rely on the Lord. Do not let our faith also collapsed and be flattened, but stay strong growing in faith. No need to be angry, abuse, or kill. God never taught this way to us. The teachings of the Lord, is teaching us…love others, even love your enemies. Remain patient, God never sleeps. We can always reach out for His hand. There are BEAUTIFUL plans HE will provide for us.
Voice of the Persecuted received this touching letter by a young Christian sister sharing from her heart after she saw the pictures and people who had burned some of the churches in Aceh Singkil.
WHAT’S WRONG THE CHURCH?
The people of Indonesia should be taught and often read the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, Chapter XI about Religion Article 29 :
(1) The State shall be based upon the belief in the One and Only God.
(2) The State guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion or belief.
Friends, you can burn our churches because they are only buildings.
Friends, you can destroy our churches because the churches are merely stone, sand, cement, and arranged wood. We only call these buildings churches.
You can burn our churches, because theses buildings are not our Lord.
Friends, you can flatten our churches to the ground, because we are not worshiping church.
You can burn our churches because the churches are only places where we gather as people who believe in our God.
Friends, you can burn and flatten our places of worship, but not our faith nor our belief in our God.
Will we avenge your cruel actions? We will not do that, friend.
Will we cuss you and say you are perverted? You will not hear this from us.
Behold, we are only minorities, Christian people trying to defend our faith and trust. We won’t avenge the cruel actions you have done, because that’s not what our God has taught us. But this is what we will do. We will fold our hands and pray to God, so that HE will forgive you, friends.
You can burn our churches, but it will not hinder our trust in the Lord.
But friends, may I ask this question to all of you who have burned our church buildings?
What is wrong with the churches?
May I ask what is wrong with our religion, friends? If our religion is different than yours, why we can’t we build our own places of worship in our country, Indonesia?
What’s so wrong that our religion is different from the majority of people of Indonesia? Doesn’t the State of Indonesia according to the CONSTITUTION of 1945 article 29 paragraph 2, ”GUARANTEES ALL PERSONS THE FREEDOM OF WORSHIP, each according to his/her own religion or belief”?
Thank you, friends for the churches which you have chosen to burn. What you have done has made us stronger in our faith and even more trusting in our Lord.
MAY THE LORD FORGIVE YOU BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WERE DOING.
The recent number of attacks on religious communities has impelled the Indonesian government to reexamine the controversial 2006 joint ministerial decree on establishing houses of worship.
ANTARA News quoted Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo as saying, “My office and the Religious Affairs Ministry are seeking to amend our decree on building houses of worship so that everyone will show respect when a religious community is setting up their holy place.”
Indonesia’s national motto is “unity in diversity”. The Government of Indonesia must act swiftly to revise this decree, an initiator of tension and abuse among Indonesia’s religious communities. A mandate to protect the entire community with freedom of worship without fear must be put in place throughout the nation, including the province of Aceh, without exception.
We pray for Indonesia as our brothers and sisters fear the pressure and intolerance Christians now face in Aceh may very well spread across the nation. They’re also concerned that the influx of Muslim refugees may fuel further intolerance. Some tell us the nation’s claim of religious harmony is merely for show, a decoration.
Dear brothers and sisters, though you may be on the other side of the globe, we suffer with you and will keep you close in our hearts and prayers. We rejoice and thank God for you. Hold on, there is hope…the Lord is with you.
Mazmur 59:16 (59-17) Tetapi aku mau menyanyikan kekuatan-Mu, pada waktu pagi aku mau bersorak-sorai karena kasih setia-Mu; sebab Engkau telah menjadi kota bentengku, tempat pelarianku pada waktu kesesakanku. (Psalm 59:16)
Father, protect them in this land and help them to respond in Your will. We pray the Church and their faith will continue to grow as they endure suffering for the sake of the Gospel. We ask as they turn their eyes towards the Lord and that God’s Holy presence will be felt among them. May they unite as One in the Body of Christ and be strengthened beyond measure. Father, we ask this in the precious name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
They’re also asking that we stand with them by signing the petition below addressed to the President in Indonesia. Grateful for your help and say, “Thank you!”
The petition translated:
The minority religion places were regulated by 2 of our ministers from previous government-the Minister of Religious Affairs and the Minister of Home Affairs No. 9 and No. 8 of 2006, in which the regulation should require no ID card of 90 church members and 60 ID Cards from local community approval.
Regulatory clause that mentions “local community support at least 60 people” makes discriminatory for religious minorities in the region.
It Is really not easy to collect the signatures of 60 people to get a permit the establishment of houses of worship, especially if the required signatures of citizens whose religion is different with those who will build a house of worship.
Now, a lot of violence, closures, and arson by anarchist groups for reasons not meet the approval of 60 people.
Violence of this kind, will make hostility among Indonesian citizens at many places, crime, and erode our sense of nationhood. Imagine this country will be fragmented and disappearing sense of tolerance we are as the nation.
Indonesia should not be grouped based on the majority and the minority religion, where it will actually make it disintegrate our nation, and become brittle.
States should ensure that every citizen can worship wherever they are throughout Indonesia.
Article may be shared or reprinted with credit/link to Voice of the Persecuted
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Saudi Arabia recently preached to the international community about the need to confront “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations.”
If this sounds surreal, consider the following excerpts from a July 26 report in the Saudi Gazette(emphasis added):
Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any actvilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.
Saudi Arabia wants Western cartoonists, comedians, and others—people who represent only their individual selves—to stop mocking the religious beliefs and symbols of Islam, even as the Arabian kingdom’s owninstitutionalized policy is to vilify and discriminate against the religious beliefs and symbols of all other faiths.
Not a single non-Muslim worship building is allowed there; the highest Islamic authority decreed that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” Whenever Christians are suspected of meeting in a house for worship—or as one Saudi official once complained, “plotting to celebrate Christmas”—they arearrested and punished.
Any cross or other non-Muslim symbol found is confiscated and destroyed. Anyone caught trying to smuggle Bibles or any other “publications that have prejudice to any other religious belief other than Islam” can be executed.
In 2011, a Colombian soccer-player “was arrested by the Saudi moral police after customers in a Riyadh shopping mall expressed outrage over the sports player’s religious tattoos, which included the face of Jesus of Nazareth on his arm.” In 2010 a Romanian player kissed the tattoo of a cross he had on his arm after scoring a goal, causing public outrage.
And yet, Saudi Arabia has the unmitigated gall to ask the West—where Islam is freely practiced, where mosques and Korans proliferate, and where Muslims are granted full equality—to cease “discrimination based on religion.”
Continues the Saudi Gazette:
Addressing an international symposium on media coverage of religious symbols based on international law, which started in this French city on Saturday, a senior Saudi official said the Kingdom emphasized years ago that the international community must act urgently to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance, which has become widespread in all communities and peoples of the world.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, few countries exhibit as much “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” as does the Arabian kingdom. Along with the aforementioned discrimination and intolerance against all other religions, Saudi Arabia is notoriously clannish and racist.
Ten percent of the population is denied equal rights because of their race; black men are barred from holding many government positions; black women are often put on trial for “witchcraft”; castrated African slaves are sold on Facebook in the birthplace of Islam, and its princes are known to beat their black slaves to death. Human Rights Watch has described conditions for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia as resembling slavery.
Worse of all is if you’re black and Christian. After 35 Christian Ethiopians were arrested and abused in prison for almost a year, simply for holding a private house prayer, one of them said after being released: “They [Saudis] are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”
This is unsurprising considering that the Saudi education system makes it a point to indoctrinate Muslim children with hatred, teaching that “the Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.”
According to Saudi novelist Hani Naqshabandi, “Our religious institutions do not give us room to exercise free thought…. They [Saudi institutions] said that the Christian is an infidel, a denizen of hell, an enemy to Allah and Islam. So we said, ‘Allah’s curse on them.’”
Again, bear in mind that all this is official Saudi policy—not the “free expressions” of individuals, which the Saudis are condemning as creating “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” around the world.
The Saudi Gazette goes on to quote one Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, “a senior Saudi official.” Speaking at the recent international symposium in France which hosted representatives from 16 European nations, he said that Western “freedom of expression without limits or restrictions” are “abuses [that] bred intolerance, extremism and human rights violations…”
Again, it bears reemphasizing that in the West individuals are free to express themselves. And it’s just that—expression, not action (as in murder, terrorism, rape, enslavement, church bombings, or the slaughter of “apostates”).
As for Western governments, thanks to political correctness, not only do they discourage freedom of expression but honest, objective talk concerning Islam is suppressed (hence every Western leader maintains that ISIS “has nothing to do with Islam,” AKA, “the religion of peace”).
Meanwhile, it is precisely Islamic teachings that breed “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations,” and not just in Saudi Arabia but all throughout the Muslim world. And it is precisely these teachings that prompt Western peoples to criticize Islam, including through cartoons.
None of this is enough to embarrass the Saudis from their farce:
Al-Omari said the Saudi participation in the symposium falls in line with its efforts to support the principles of justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance in the world as well as to emphasize the importance of respecting religions and religious symbols.
Actually, because of Saudi Arabia’s absolute lack of “justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance,” even the U.S. State Department lists the home of Islam and Muhammad as one of eight “Countries of Particular Concern.”
Thus in ultra-hypocritical manner, Saudi Arabia asks the international community to stop exercising freedom of expression—even as it openly and unapologetically persecutes non-Muslims, discriminates against non-Saudis, and violates the most basic of human rights on a daily basis.
It still remains to determine which is more surreal, more unbelievable: that Saudi Arabia, which tops the charts of state-enforced religious intolerance and ethnic discrimination, is calling on the West “to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance,” or that the West deigns to participate in such disgracefully hypocritical forums.
A few years ago, a friend of mine got in trouble. This time, my friend got in trouble for doing the right thing.
In solidarity with his union brothers, my friend was walking a picket line because the company he was working for had been taking advantage of employees. My friend was enjoying conversation with his colleagues talking about a number of items in the news, talking about the weather, about fishing, and traffic.
My friend cared for his colleagues, and so he explained to them the gospel. To make his explanation clear, he used a simple, two-sided tract called Life or Death. The tract was the size of a business card and had the word “Death” written in such an ornate and elaborate way that any calligrapher would have coveted the skill of its artist.
“Death” was the beginning point—and the bad news. The card was designed in such a way that all my friend had to do was flip it around and the word which had looked like “Death” now appeared to say “Life.” From the simple flip from death to life, he shared the gospel message of John 3:16.
The workers hearing the gospel message gave it little merit. They held their tongues and kept their death, but not without recourse. They quietly filed a grievance with the union and filed charges against my friend for making “Death” threats against them.
At the time, I thought the entire affair was ludicrous. As it turns out, it was portentous, an ominous sign of things to come. Earlier this week, another harbinger of hate crimes to come arose from Great Britain. Mark Steyn tells the story of one Robert Gladwin, a twenty-year old peace-loving, uber-tolerant Brit who simply could not tolerate the sign posted by the Attleborough Baptist Church.
The church sign featured an 8.5 x 11 color flyer with flames coming up from the bottom. The words of the sign read: “If you think there is no God, you’d better be right.” Death, judgment, and hell were not mentioned, but certainly implied. Steyn’s piece makes the excellent contrast between this rather benign flyer and the often seen (and protected) signs of Muslims in London: “Behead those who insult Islam.”
Still, the twenty year-old Gladwin was offended enough to report the crime to the police, who quickly launched a hate crimes investigation against the church. The pastor of the church, John Rose, removed the sign as a result of the investigation and replaced it (unfortunately) with a sign featuring the message “God loves you” with a meerkat saying “Simples” in a floating speech bubble overhead.
Christians must be clear on the gospel message as never before. Any number of issues—Hell perhaps preeminently—will become intolerable hate speech in the days to come. The simple message of eternal life in Christ for those who believe may easily be reinterpreted as a death threat by those who reject the Lord.
None of this is new, really. Christ told His followers from the beginning,
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Jakarta (Source) – The Islamist pressures against Christian communities in Aceh “have become intolerable. Within a year, with non-existent legal pretexts, 17 house churches have been closed: these also include Catholic chapels. The islamization of the province continues , just as promised by the governor Abdullah. ” It is the sense of the Annual Report published by IndonesianChristian.org, Protestant organization which monitors the situation of the Christian community in Indonesia.
The forced closure of places of worship and threats against Protestant congregations, says the text, “increase unabated. But this will only create tensions manipulated from the outside between the Christian and Islamic communities. The government must guarantee religious plurality and respect: or risk clashes and violence”. Favor Bancin, of the Synod of the churches in Indonesia is of the same opinion, adding: “The behavior of local authorities is a potential threat to the tolerant atmosphere we see deteriorating over time.”
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world and, while guaranteeing the constitutional principles of religious freedom, it is more and more often the scene of attacks and violence against minorities, whether they are Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or of other faiths. In the province of Aceh – the only one in the Archipelago – the Islamic law (sharia) applies and in many other areas the influence of the Muslim religion in the lives of citizens is becoming more radical and extreme. In addition, certain rules such as the building permit – the infamous IMB – are exploited to prevent the building or close Christian places of worship, as is the case for some time in Bogor regency, West Java, for the faithful of the Yasmin Church .
Behind this upsurge is the current governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, who has spent years in exile in Sweden for his activities within the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). During his election campaign, the Islamic politician stated several times that “he would not hesitate to apply the Koranic laws in the province.” And a few months after his election his words have become reality.
For its part, the central government is seeking to curb this trend. Interior Minister Gamawan Fauzi has repeatedly warned that these activities “are not acceptable. Indonesia exercises a spirit of pluralism and must continue to do so. Tolerance must be guaranteed and the majority can not crush the minority violating their civil rights “.