Wednesday, August 11, 2010

068. Indonesia: worshippers attacked in Bekasi, West Java (plus Nth Korea)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 068 | Wed 11 Aug 2010

Before turning our attention to the deteriorating situation in West Java, Indonesia, the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin ministry must share some news from North Korea. North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS) has learned that 23 residents of Kuwal-dong, Pyungsung, South Pyongan Province, North Korea, were arrested in mid-May for their involvement in religious activities. After interrogating the believers, the regime executed three 'leaders' who had reportedly been converted while on business in China and incarcerated the others in concentration labour camp 'No. 15 Kwanliso in Yoduk', where they will surely also die.

Pray for North Korea's incarcerated Christians in their extreme suffering, for those grieving the loss of loved ones and for those gripped by fear. May our ever-present God be their strength, enabling them to rise above their circumstances (Isaiah 40:27-31; Habakkuk 3:19). May God deliver North Korea (Isaiah 35:4).


[For background on the extremely serious situation brewing in West Java see: Religious Liberty Monitoring under 'Indonesia'; and RLPB 063 (07 July 2010) which reported earlier strife in Bekasi.]

The 1500-strong Batak Christian Protestant Filadelfia Church (HKBP Filadelfia) in Bekasi has been meeting in homes for the last 15 years because the local authorities will not grant them permission to build a dedicated meeting place. Though the church is ethnic Batak and worships in the Batak language (not Javanese or Indonesian, i.e. not a local language) local Islamic fundamentalist groups have accused it of 'Christianisation'. Now the church is not even permitted to gather for worship in a home because the local authorities claim the local residents don't want a church in their area.

Over recent weeks, a small core group from this fellowship has been meeting for prayer and worship in the open air on the church's own land. On Sunday 31 July the group worshipped in the open, guarded by some 300 police, while a mob of Islamic fundamentalists chanted Islamic Arabic slogans. The New York Times reported (31 July): 'As the congregants filed home, a knot of Muslim men pushed forward with raised fists at the passing Christians, but were bottled up by a linked-arm chain of other Muslims.' So it seems a significant number of local Muslims are not only happy to have the church meeting in their area, but are willing to risk their own bodies to defend it.

On Sunday morning 8 August at least 300 militants from the Islamic People's Forum (FUI) and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) pushed through a police barricade and attacked the 20 Filadelfia Church Christians worshipping the Lord on the church's land. The hundreds of police present were either unable or unwilling to prevent the attack. Armed with sticks and stones, the militants chased, caught and beat the fleeing Christians, several of whom required medical treatment for their injuries. Berliana Sinaga (22) suffered bruises to her face after several militants caught and beat her. Risma Silalahi (45) is still in pain after militants beat her around the head. Franky Tambunan (26) was struck in the face and kicked while trying to protect his elderly father. The attack was well orchestrated with the militants dispersing quickly afterwards.

The Islamic fundamentalist and militant organisations are not only hoping to terrorise the church into submission, they are also testing the authorities to see how far they can go. The government has to choose: will it uphold the constitution and guarantee religious liberty or will it yield to the Islamists? If the government refuses to guarantee the constitutional rights of Indonesian citizens, if it shows weakness and buckles in the face of Islamic belligerence, then West Java's Christians will be at risk, especially as Ramadan progresses. This is a watershed moment for Indonesia. The government can no longer straddle the ridge. It must come down either on the side of religious freedom and equality before the law or on the side of Islam and dhimmitude.


* God will deliver the Church in West Java from this terrible threat, so the believers can worship in peace, and so West Java might retain the light, salt, yeast and Good News that the Church brings into its midst (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3).

* if there is to be no deliverance at this time, then may God fill the believers with faith, courage and peace, protect and comfort them in the midst of the persecution and reassure them of his everlasting love.

* God will take what man intends for evil and use it for his own good purpose. As Islam shrouds the people in the darkness of dictatorship, may the light of Christ just shine ever more radiantly, visibly and attractively.

'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)



Religious tensions are escalating, particularly in the outer suburbs of Jakarta, and specifically in Bekasi where Muslim fundamentalists have threatened war on the Christians. The situation turned violent on Sunday 8 August, when some 300 Islamic militants pushed through a police barricade to attack 20 Christians praying on church-owned land. (They are not permitted to gather for worship in their homes or build a meeting place.) The police were apparently unable or unwilling to prevent the attack. The militants, armed with sticks and stones, chased and beat the fleeing Christians, some of whom required medical treatment. The government must choose to defend religious freedom and equality before the law, or it will buckle in the face of Islamic belligerence and open the door for Islamisation, talibanisation and dhimmitude. Please pray.