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11 March 2006

Authorities Are Shutting Down House Churches

CWNews.com In West Java, Indonesia, eight Christian ‘house churches’ were recently shut down by local government officials. One of them had operated for 30 years

Pastor Simon Timorason said, "The Gospel tells us to spread the Gospel to every nation. This is what they are afraid of … that Muslims will be converted to become Christian, which is what is also happening."

The local government officials, who ordered the closure of the house churches, based their action on a ministerial decree issued in 1969. It states that all religious groups must apply for permits before establishing places of worship; which means that a house cannot be used as a church.

Pastor Simon Timorason is Coordinator for the Christian churches in the area. He says it is very difficult, nearly impossible, for churches to be issued permits in majority-Muslim communities. As a result, only 10% of the churches have permits.

Pastor Simon also says another hindrance to getting a permit is the huge amount of money churches need to pay.

Pastor Simon added, "There is a lot of bureaucracy. And, before he signs the application, we need to pay each official as high as 100 million rupiah for big churches in the city." That's the equivalent of 10,400 U.S. dollars.

A Pentecostal church was granted a building permit, but its construction was stopped by local officials after they found out that the church building was going to be higher than the mosque. According to them, this was not allowed.

But Pastor Viki, head pastor of the Padalarang Pentecostal Church, says there is no such regulation in Indonesian law.

Pastor Viki said, "My personal opinion is: perhaps it's jealousy of the people to the Christian community. We cannot build something that is big and tall. We are granted permission, but we need to keep it low and small."

Pastor Viki believes that in God's perfect timing, they will still be able to complete their 3-story building.

The Indonesian national government has formed a committee to address the church closure issue. Aisiyah Barouka is Vice President of the Committee On Religious Rights.

Aisiyah Barouka said, "Based on our Constitution, it is not illegal for people to worship in house churches, because we have freedom of religion. We are investigating who are the militant groups who have been pressuring the local officials into closing the house churches."

An agreement between the Christians and the Muslims is being made. However, the Christians do not agree with some of the provisions: such as, a Christian church should have 90 members, and 70 signatures from the community signifying approval.

This, the Christians say, is difficult to achieve in a Muslim community.

While the investigation proceeds, the Christian congregations have resolved to continue to worship in different houses. Despite threats from militant groups to burn down these house churches, if Christians continue to worship in them, prayer gatherings and worship services are still being held.

Pastor Jawadi Hutapea is Head Pastor of Batak Bethany Protestant Church. He said, "My congregation has decided to continue our service every Sunday, because we do no harm. We worship our God and we do not fight the militant Muslims

13:48 Posted in Indonesia | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

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