Permission for church services in shopping center not necessary, rights advocates say.
JAKARTA, Indonesia, December 2 (CDN) — After closing churches in West Java, South Sulawesi, Sumatra, and other provinces, hard-line Islamic organizations are now attempting to stop Christian worship in or near shopping malls.
Dozens of people from Islamic organizations demonstrated in front of the Gandaria City Mall in south Jakarta on Nov. 19, protesting worship of an unnamed church at the shopping center. After about an hour, mall management in the presence of the sector police chief spoke with demonstrators, who said they opposed the services because there is a Quranic boarding school nearby.
“In front of the mall is a Quranic school that has been there for dozens of years,” said demonstrator Hamdani, according to Poskota newspaper.
The head of the mall, identified only as Ridwan, denied that there was any church or worship service there. He told Poskota that the demonstrators were misinformed and that he had resolved the matter with them.
Jeirry Sumampouw, executive secretary of the diakonia department of the Indonesian Fellowship of Churches, said that no one has the right to forbid worship in a mall. He said a mall is a public space that can be used for any purpose, including worship.
“A mall is multifunctional and can be used in any manner, as long as it is good and doesn’t disturb things,” he said. “The government must be firm with demonstrators who tried to forbid worship services at Gandaria City Mall, because if nothing is done, this can spread to other places.”
The difficulty of getting building permits for churches has caused an increase of worship in malls, Sumampouw said.
“Because of this, many churches are using malls as places of worship,” he said.
He said the state should protect every citizen that worships, especially those in malls or shopping centers.
“Mall managers are often frightened so much that they will forbid worship activities in their malls,” he added.
Citing the Quranic school as a reason to forbid worship at the Gandaria City Mall is without legal basis and highly subjective, Sumampouw said. Raw emotion without consideration of justice motivates those who wish to stop Christian worship, he said, adding that they merely oppose any appearance of Christianity.
“Remember, this is not a country of one religion only,” he said. “These motives are wrong. The reasons to forbid worship are fabricated.”
Sumampouw said opponents’ motives go beyond mere anti-Christian sentiment – there are hoodlums who are intolerant of minority religions, including those who extort money, seize land, and oppose Christians because of personal grievances.
Saor Siagian, coordinator of the Religious Freedom Defense Team, said that Islamic prohibition of worship in malls urgently needed to be addressed.
“If demonstrators are able to prohibit worship activities, it means that they are able to forbid constitutional rights of citizens, because the constitution states that every citizen is free to practice his faith,” he said.
Forcing worship to stop, Siagian said, not only violates the constitution but is also a criminal offense.
“Because of this, the police must act decisively,” he said.
Demonstrators must understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens, he said, because no one has the right to forbid people to practice their faith in Indonesia.
“Because of this, I urge any Christian congregation that is the object of a demonstration to report it to police and lodge a complaint that there is a threat of force,” he said. “It is also fair to see if the demonstrators have a permit or have notified police. There should be no illegal demonstrations.”
Siagian advised all congregations that as citizens they must not give in to vigilantes, including “anyone wearing a robe,” a reference to Muslim extremists from the Islamic Defenders Front and other hard-line groups that wear long white robes.
There is no need to obtain a permit to worship in a mall under Indonesian law, he said. If a worship service took place at Gandaria City Mall, Saor said, the congregation could continue to meet there.
“If a congregation bows to the wishes of a mob, then it is the same as vigilante rule, which violates the constitution,” he said.
Mall managers are not obliged to reject Christian worship, he said, because Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution states that every citizen is free to worship. Siagian added that if Christians were forbidden to worship once a week in a mall, then demonstrators need to be consistent and press for a ban of all forms of worship at malls, including Islamic prayers said five times a day.
“Those would also need to be forbidden,” he said.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice president of the Setara Institute for Justice and Peace, said he was surprised at opposition to worship at Gandaria City Mall. Malls are public spaces where many different activities may take place, he said.
“Because it’s a public space, there is no relationship between permits and worship,” he said. “It’s different if you want to erect a church [building] on your own property.”
Naipospos said churches are meeting in malls because obtaining permits is so difficult. The government and the Interfaith Harmony Forum should quickly resolve the conflict, he said.
“I fear that this incident will become a model that will be imitated by intolerant gangs in other places,” he said.
The demonstrators’ reasoning that worship cannot be held because of the nearby Quranic school is not rational, Naipospos said. Because a mall is a public place, he said, it is not beholden to any particular community or religion.
If there happened to be a worship service in Gandaria Mall, Bonar would urge them to continue meeting.
“Let’s not bow to any intolerant hoodlums,” he said. “We don’t need to worry.”
Report from Compass Direct News
A growing number of Christian churches are joining forces with a grass-roots movement known as the Advent Conspiracy, which is seeking to "do away with the frenzied activity and extravagant gift-giving of a commercial Christmas," reports Thaddeus M. Baklinski, LifeSiteNews.com.
The group was founded by Portland pastor Rick McKinley, who with a group of fellow pastors realized that their own, and their congregations’, focus during the time of Advent revolved more around secular consumerism than preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ.
"What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists," McKinley observed.
"And when it’s all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?"
"None of us like Christmas," McKinley said in a Time.com report, adding, "That’s sort of bad if you’re a pastor. It’s the shopping, the going into debt, the worrying that if I don’t spend enough money, someone will think I don’t love them."
McKinley, whose church donates money to dig wells in developing countries through Living Water International and other organizations, saw that a fraction of the money Americans spend at retailers in the month of December could supply the entire world with clean water.
As a result he and his friends embarked on a plan to urge their congregations to spend less on presents for friends and family, and to consider donating the money they saved to support practical and tangible charitable works.
"If more Christians changed how they thought about giving at Christmas," he argued, "the holiday could be transformative in a religious and practical sense."
McKinley observed that at first church members were uncertain. "Some people were terrified," McKinley recalled. "They said, ‘My gosh, you’re ruining Christmas. What do we tell our kids?’"
Soon though, the idea caught on and McKinley found that not only were people "relieved to be given permission to slow down and buy less" but were "expressing their love through something more meaningful than a gift card. Once church members adjusted to this new conception of Christmas, they found that they loved it."
According to the Time.com report the Advent Conspiracy movement has exploded, counting hundreds of churches on four continents and in at least 17 countries as participants.
The Advent Conspiracy video has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube and the movement boasts nearly 45,000 fans on Facebook.
To find out more about the Advent Conspiracy, click here.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Serious charges about security in Pakistan have been provided to ANS by a reliable source in Pakistan speaking on condition of anonymity, reports Jeremy Reynalds, correspondent for ASSIST News Service.
The anonymous source said in an e-mail that Pakistan’s government needs to make clear its real intentions.
He said that while Pakistan tells India, the U.S. and the rest of the world that the country doesn’t allow terrorists to operate internally, the Taliban has successfully consolidated its control in the Swat Valley during the last year.
The source charged the Taliban in Swat with an ongoing reign of terror.
He said, “They have banned women from the marketplace, killed dozens of innocent people everyday and left their bodies in the street or hanging on a pole in a busy shopping area, some of them headless.”
He said among other atrocities, Taliban members in Swat have also “bombed 200 schools, banned girls’ education in the whole valley (preventing 80,000 girls from going to school), killed politicians, policeman and their relatives, destroyed dozens of homes, destroyed barber shops where men had their beards trimmed, blown up music shops and threatened bus drivers with suicide bombers if they do not stop playing music on their buses.”
The source told ANS that police officers are rarely seen in public and when they travel, they have a military escort. In addition, he said, the Peshawar High Court has said it plans to close its courts in Swat because of an inability to function under current conditions. There is also a plan, he said, as a result of pressure from the Taliban, to legalize Shariah (Islamic) law in much of the province.
“In light of this,” the source said, “people need to know what the prime minister, president and others in leadership positions mean when they say that they will not allow terrorists to operate on its soil. If they are so concerned about other countries respecting their sovereignty, they should explain to the rest of us why they allow these evil men to continue to flagrantly violate the constitution of Pakistan.”
The source asked, “When will these leaders, who were elected less than a year ago, finally decide to take a stand and protect the very people who elected them to office?”
The source concluded his comments by saying the international media need to put a spotlight on this issue, and start asking the government hard questions.
ANS discovered that some media are already drawing attention to the situation. In a story by Andrew Buncombe and Omar Waraich in Britain’s Independent newspaper, the writers reported that Taliban members in the Swat Valley are issuing “wanted lists” for four dozen people they plan to bring before makeshift Shariah courts.
The Independent said that in one of his “notorious” radio broadcasts, Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah named politicians and government officials “wanted” by the militants.
“These people encouraged military operations in the area and are responsible for the killings of Taliban and civilians,” the Independent reported the cleric said.
The Independent said the list’s creation is the latest threat from the militants who now control more than three-quarters of the Swat Valley, one of Pakistan’s most celebrated tourist areas.
In recent weeks, the Independent said, their brutality has increased with a series of public executions and the issuing of a number of edicts.
The Independent reported that a spokesman for the Taliban said the wanted list was drawn up following a meeting chaired by Fazlullah.
“All of them will have to appear before the Taliban court, or they will face action,” the Independent reported Muslim Khan, a spokesman for the Swat Taliban, told The News newspaper.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Today, on the way home from work, I decided to do a little shopping. So I went and bought this and then that. I then thought, ‘Well, I’m over this way I might as well pop into that new Christian bookshop and see what it is like.’
So I arrived and popped in for a look – it is quite a set-up. It is all very impressive and has a very well researched approach to marketing in the bookshop setting. This mob could sure teach some of the ‘more secular’ bookshops a thing or two about setting up a store to entice people in and to buy.
Then the moment of truth arrived – I began to wander (or is that ‘wonder’) among the bookshelves and view what was on offer. It didn’t take me long to think that here was a wonderful example of ‘Christian Confusion Collected.’ Is the person/persons/group behind this bookshop a Christian (or a group of Christians) or just a seller of books under the collective title of ‘Christian Books.’ Is this person Protestant or Roman Catholic, Evangelical or Liberal, Reformed or Arminian, Charismatic/Pentecostal or … ? The question has to be asked, because books of all types were here represented. Perhaps the title ‘Christian’ was enough to get a book on the shelves here.
In a short time I had found a book on Mother Teresa, one by Karl Marx and a whole host of other uncomfortably united authors – you could almost feel the tension as they each jostled for shelf space. There was Mother Teresa, warming herself by the fire of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, with all her innocence and saintly arraignment for all to see. What an odd group of fellows were some of these authors.
Alongside the foolish waste of natural resources that is the Purpose Driven Church, was a book entitled, ‘This little church went to market – Is the modern church reaching out or selling out (which I actually bought for a read).’ What an interesting juxtaposition there for all to see ~ one wonders if the incongruity of the two books was picked up by the one filling the shelves – yes, I agree, unlikely.
Then of course my mind turned to the customers – what a pious looking group of people, pontificating on the excellence of the goods on offer. I found myself relating more to the girl who couldn’t contain her amusement at some of the titles she saw lining the shelves – a fellow vulgar vagrant perhaps, not yet filled with the spirit of the place.
So to end my visit it was necessary to make my way past the various trinkets, obviously there for those customers with more indulgent tastes, figuring I had spent enough time in my present world purgatory and pay the bill for some other misfit occupants of the store – the book warning of the market driven approach to ‘church,’ a book on unconditional election and another on John Wyclif, who seemed to peer out from the cover of the book, seemingly embarrassed by being among those with whom he was sharing a shelf – perhaps it was time for John to re-establish Lollardism in another setting than that to which he was used to. Still, I had liberated these three books from their imprisonment and they were soon to join brethren of a similar mind in other shelves at another place where their fellowship would be much sweeter indeed.
ABOVE: Hugh Latimer … Burnt at the Stake Under Queen Mary
(As described in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs)
To look at Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs