Christian Post: Harsh Era Looms in Aceh, Indonesia
May 17, 2012 08:12 PDT
The Christian Post (Washington DC)
May 17, 2012
Harsh Era Looms in Aceh, Indonesia
Election of hard-line Islamic governor followed by closure of 17 churches
JAKARTA, Indonesia – The election of a hard-line Islamic governor in
Indonesia's Aceh Province last month appears to have opened the way
for a crack-down on the minority Christian community, which saw 17
churches sealed shut in early May.
Emboldened by the April 9 election of Zaini Abdullah of the militant
Aceh Party (Partai Aceh, or PA), hundreds of Islamists demonstrated in
front of the office of Aceh Singkil regency on April 30, demanding
area church buildings be not only sealed but demolished.
Christian leaders told Compass that, besides the usual pretext of lack
of church permits – applications for which local authorities routinely
deny or delay – the demands were based on a controversial agreement
that Christians were reportedly forced to sign in 2001 stipulating
that there be only one church and four chapels in the regency.
The number of churches in the regency had grown to 22, and the
Diakonia Secretary of the Indonesian Fellowship of Churches, Jeirry
Simampow, said that the demonstrators were upset with the Interfaith
Harmony Forum for allowing the growth of churches in the area.
"The number of Christians has reached 12,000," Simampow said, adding
that the church growth has not been accompanied by building permits.
"Some houses are forced to function as churches, and some buildings
are only semi-permanent."
He noted that there is a strong, systematic movement to close churches
in Aceh Singkil based on the selective enforcement of building permit
requirements, which are otherwise rarely invoked in Indonesia.
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