Authorities on the Indonesian island of Sumatra closed three churches on September 27th, stating that they lack the necessary permits. Church leaders, however, argue that the closures relate instead to restlessness among majority Muslims because of the rapid growth of churches in the area.
According to an anonymous source, protest rallies had been planned by the "Islamic Defenders Front" for September 28th, with plans for 1,000 protesters in front of the three churches. It is believed that the churches were sealed to prevent this demonstration. Church groups have issued statements urging the government to not give in to pressure but to respect religious freedom.
A spokesman for the Jambi district denies that the action was influenced by pressure. He added that if the churches file the necessary documentation, permits would be issued within a week. However, the pastor of one of the affected churches in the village of West Kenali claims they have been worshipping there since 2004 and had fulfilled all the building permit requirements. Despite all past efforts to develop good relations with local authorities, the permits were still not granted.
For more reports on the difficulties facing Christians in Indonesia, along with informative video documentaries, go to our website.
Intercede for these Christians in Indonesia, asking God to help them demonstrate the love and peace of Christ to their neighbours, despite the opposition they face. Pray that the governing authorities will respect the rights of all citizens and, therefore, allow the churches to re-open without the risk of further protests. May the message of the Gospel continue to spread throughout the region, bringing many more to a saving knowledge of Jesus as Lord.