Two Churches Forced to Close in Indonesia

Islamists pressure officials to stop Baptist services; Batak worshippers also told to cease.

JAKARTA, Indonesia, February 4 (CDN) — Local governments have ordered the closure of two churches on Indonesia’s Java island.

Under pressure from Islamist groups, authorities ordered Christian Baptist Church in Sepatan, Tangerang district, Banten Province to cease services. In Pondok Timur, near Bekasi in West Java, officials abruptly closed the Huria Christian Protestant Batak Church (HKBP) after delaying a building permit for four years.

Tangerang district authorities issued a decree on Jan. 21 ordering all worship activities to cease at the Baptist church. At a meeting in the district offices, officials pressured church officials to sign a statement that they would stop all worship activities, but they refused.

The Rev. Bedali Hulu said that he received the government order on Jan. 26. In addition, a sign was placed on his church’s worship building saying, “Stop! This building violates government decree number 10 of 2006.”

Hulu told Compass that on Dec. 7 a banner was placed on the street leading to the housing area that said, “We Reject the Presence of Uncontrolled Churches in our Area,” and “We Reject Uncontrolled Churches in Sepatan District.” On Dec. 12, citizens presented a letter rejecting the presence of the congregation to church leaders.

The church has permission to worship from both local citizens and the Christians in accordance with a Joint Ministerial Decree promulgated in 1969 and revised in 2006, Hulu said.

“However, the pressure from Islamic groups is so strong, it’s as if the local government can do nothing,” he said.

Islamic groups stirred up demonstrations against the church on Dec. 19, when 30 people demonstrated during a Christmas celebration for children, and another demonstration followed the next day. On Dec. 27, a large crowd from the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) arrived and demanded that worship cease.

Police on Dec. 29 issued a letter ordering that services stop because they violated local government regulations. The next day church leaders met with local officials but did not reach an agreement.

The church of 130 people has been facing such obstacles since 2006. It began in 2005 after reporting to local authorities and receiving permission.

Opposition from the FPI began the next year, and the church was forced to move services from house to house. On Nov. 4, 2007, as children attended Sunday school, around 10 FPI members arrived and broke up the meeting. On Nov. 19 of that year, several FPI members sent a letter to Hulu warning him and his family to leave the village within six days or the extremists would chase them out.

Hulu left temporarily on the advice of police, but his wife and mother-in-law were allowed to remain.

Last year, unidentified people burned the church building on Sept. 20; police have done nothing, he said.

Closure Order

Near the city of Bekasi, West Java, the government has given a deadline for the cessation of services to the Huria Christian Protestant Batak Church in Pondok Timur. The Rev. Luspida Simanjuntak said that services were ordered to cease after last Sunday (Jan. 31).

The government requested that church officials sign a letter agreeing to this order, but they refused, Simanjuntak said.

The pastor said a local official told them that the order was based on a meeting between the local government and nearby residents who objected to worship services. Simanjuntak told Compass that they were invited to a meeting with the residents who objected, the village officials and the head of the Interfaith Harmony Forum for Bekasi City, Haji Hasnul Chloid Pasaribu. Instead of discussing the situation, however, officials immediately gave the church a letter stating that permission for services extended only to Jan. 31.

“The letter was composed after consulting only one side,” said Simanjuntak. “The church aspirations were never heard.”

The church had been worshipping at that location since 2006.

“From the beginning we worked on the permission, starting at the block level and village level,” he said. “At that time we received permission to worship at my home. We never had problems in our relations with the local citizens.”

The church applied for a worship building permit in 2006, but local officials have yet to act on it, he said.

“Are we not allowed to worship while awaiting the building permit?” Simanjuntak said.

Rev. Gomar Gultom, general secretary of the Indonesian Fellowship of Churches, said that the organization will formulate a request to the Indonesian Senate to provide solutions for the two churches.

“In the near future, we will meet senators from the law and religion committees to discuss this matter,” Gomar said.

Johnny Simanjuntak of the Indonesian National Human Rights Committee told Compass that the government has failed to carry out its constitutional duty to protect freedom of worship for all citizens.

“Clearly the stoppage of any particular religious activity by the government is proof that the government is neglecting the human rights of its citizens,” he said.

Report from Compass Direct News 


Imam Samudra, Amrozi and his brother Mukhlas, the three men convicted for their part in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people (including 88 Australians), have been executed in Indonesia. Scores more were injured in the terrorist attack carried out by the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group. The executions were carried out by firing squad on Nusakambanan Island, off Central Java at 12.15am Sunday morning.

Reports from the scene of the executions tell of Mukhlas being the most defiant of the three terrorists, while the smiling Amrozi was clearly fearful as he approached his doom, his trademark smile gone.

Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (who somehow escaped the same end as the three Bali bombers), addressed the assembled fundamentalist Islamic terrorist thugs in the Indonesian village of Tenggulun, the home village of Amrozi and Mukhlas, as their heroes were buried. Typically, the funeral gathering of extremist Islamists soon broke out into violence as Jihadists clashed with Indonesian police and the gathered media.

Indonesia is now on high terrorist alert following the executions of the three terrorists. The world’s largest Muslim nation is now a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalist anger, with Jihadists pledging revenge for the executions – a motivation completely void of logic. These men were, after-all, executed for being murderers and for taking many human lives. Certainly there is no room for commonsense or decency in the reasoning and behaviour of mindless extremist Islamic thugs.

However, Islamic leaders throughout Indonesia have condemned the three convicted bombers, declaring that they and their supporters have no basis for claiming martyrdom as they were simply behaving in a criminal manner and were guilty of cold-blooded murder. The criticism included that of Umar Shihab, the head of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), Indonesia’s top Islamic body.

From a Christian perspective, the Bali bombers fate is far worse than merely missing out on martyrdom – they now face an eternity in endless punishment, known of course as Hell.

Indonesia now has a major credibility problem – especially given the escape of Abu Bakar Bashir from the judicial fate he deserves. Jihadist and terrorist activity is clearly rampant in Indonesia and there are many locations that are clearly a breeding ground in Indonesia. Something must be done and soon if Indonesia is to be regarded as a nation that can rightfully take its place in the world at the United Nations.

If it does not take decisive action against terrorism it should be regarded in the same way as Syria and Iran, as a terrorist friendly country. Should this remain the case, Australia and our fellow peace loving countries, should withdraw all financial assistance given to Indonesia – which is quite substantial.

BELOW: Footage of the funeral processions and the Bali Bombing


Officials give no viable alternative to church caught in land dispute.

JAKARTA, July 8 (Compass Direct News) – Public Order officials on June 26 demolished a church building in Cimahi regency of Bandung district, West Java, to make way for a new shopping mall and bus terminal after church leaders failed to convince authorities that they owned the land on which it was built.

Since the Indonesian Anglican Church of Cirebeum village was established in 1992 – with a letter of approval from 20 families in the immediate neighborhood – courts have dealt with a succession of people claiming to be the rightful owners of the property. Even as the church building was demolished, a civil tribunal in Bandung district was considering a verdict on rightful ownership following a hearing on June 24.

Public Order officials on June 26 arrived at the site with a demolition order issued by the mayor of Cimahi regency. They proceeded to demolish the building – first breaking and removing furniture before bulldozing the structure. As pastor Raman Saragih tried to stop them, one of the men hit him in the face and chest. Several others then joined in until another church member intervened.

Saragih and his church members are pursuing legal action against the Cimahi government – but it will be too late to save their church building, which now lies in ruins.

At the same time, the Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI), a sub-group of the Anti-Apostasy Alliance Movement (AGAP), has continued to forcibly close churches in Bandung district, citing the lack of necessary worship permits.

Under a Joint Ministerial Decree issued in 1969 by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs, houses of worship are required to obtain a permit from both the local religious office and the head of the local neighborhood unit. Many pastors claim that a 2006 revision to the decree has made it virtually impossible to obtain the appropriate permit, making their churches prime targets for extremist groups.

Most recently, a mob attempted to demolish two buildings in a church compound used by three congregations in Jatimulya village, West Java, on June 14. The initial dismantling of a roof, doors and fence came to a halt only after a Public Order officer from Bekasi regency fell from the roof of one of the buildings. Authorities had sealed the buildings shut in 2005. (See Compass Direct News, “Indonesian Islamists Try to Destroy Church Buildings,” June 24.)

In August 2005, respected Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra, rector of the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, demanded that police take action against FPI and AGAP for forcibly closing churches.

“This group has taken the law into their own hands and they have to be punished in line with the law,” he told reporters at the online news portal

Azyumardi insisted that only the government had the authority to close down houses of worship. Extremists, however, have continued to act with impunity.

Church Told to Relocate

Earlier this year, as debate raged over ownership of the Cirebeum village Anglican church building, Cimahi regency official Asep Syaifulah asked Saragih to relocate his church meetings.

Saragih demanded an alternative building site and a building permit for a new church in Cirebeum. On June 18, however, the Cimahi regency sent a letter stating that it had authorized the demolition of the church because it did not have the required building permit. Syaifulah also told Saragih he could not build another church in Cirebeum because it was a Muslim-majority area.

Asep offered Saragih 50 million rupiah (US$5,445) in compensation, but Saragih rejected the offer.

The chief of Cirebeum village also met with Saragih several times to discuss the future of the church. Saragih insisted that the church remain in Cibereum in order to serve its members; he asked that local authorities provide new land and a building permit for a new church, but they refused.

Saragih claims to have bought the land in 1991 from a farmer, Yus Boyoh, who gave him a simple receipt rather than a legal title deed. At the time Saragih and his fellow church members firmly believed the sale was legitimate.

In 1994, a man named Nunung Hidayah visited the church, claiming to be a descendant of the original landowner, Soma Bin Wargadiredja. Hidayah showed Saragih a title deed to the property.

Indonesian courts then declared Hidayah the rightful owner of the land, but the church was allowed to continue operating.

Four years later, in 1998, a woman named Ida Rosliah lodged a counter-claim. The Supreme Court eventually declared Rosliah the rightful owner, although Hidayah still held the title deed.

Buoyed by the court’s decision, Rosliah in 2003 sold the land to a man identified only as Idris. Idris in turn sold the land to the government of Cimahi regency in 2007, offering Saragih compensation of 125 million rupiah (US$13,550).

Saragih refused, as this amount would not cover the expenses associated with purchasing new land, obtaining a building permit and constructing a new church.

In April, Cimahi regency officials announced the construction of a new shopping mall and bus terminal on the land in question.

In response, Hidayah appealed to a civil tribunal in Bandung on June 24, producing his title deed and insisting that his ancestors had not sold the land to anyone.

Report from Compass Direct News