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Thursday, May 16, 2024

Church service disrupted in Muslim-majority area of Indonesia

Religious tensions escalate as a church service is disrupted in a Muslim-majority area of Indonesia, raising concerns for minority rights.

Recent events in North Sumatra Province, Indonesia, have shed light on the ongoing religious tensions faced by minority Christian communities in the country. In a disturbing incident captured on video, a group of Muslims disrupted a church service in a café, questioning the presence of a church in a Muslim-majority area. This incident, which occurred on July 2, marked the second disruption in two months for the Mawar Sharon Church (Gereja Mawar Sharon, GMS) congregation. The incident has sparked debates surrounding religious freedom, minority rights, and the need for tolerance in Indonesian society.

The Disruption

A video posted on social media by permadiaktivis2 on Instagram revealed the disruptive incident. A hijab-clad Muslim woman, standing alongside a police officer, vocally objected to Christians worshiping in a Muslim-majority area. She argued that the minority should not demand respect and questioned why the rules were being violated. Despite previous attempts at mediation, the disruption continued, leaving the congregation deeply affected.

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Legal Perspective

Religious rights activist Permadi Arya, also known as Abu Janda, voiced his disagreement with the disruption. He cited Indonesia’s Joint Ministerial Decree of 2006, which states that permits are only required for permanent worship venues, excluding family places of worship. According to Arya, worship gatherings held in venues such as homes, cafés, and shop-houses do not require permission. He emphasized that Christians should receive equal treatment, as these venues are equivalent to Muslim traditional prayer-rooms (musholla), which do not require permits.

Increasing Challenges for Christians

Indonesia’s ranking as the 33rd most challenging country for Christians, as reported by Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List, highlights the growing conservative Islamic character within the country. Churches engaged in evangelistic outreach face the risk of being targeted by extremist groups. Non-traditional churches, particularly in rural areas, struggle to obtain permission for constructing church buildings, often facing bureaucratic hurdles and indifference from local authorities.

Call for Tolerance and Equal Treatment

The incident at the Mawar Sharon Church serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for tolerance, respect, and equal treatment of all religious groups within Indonesian society. The country’s diversity should be celebrated and protected, with religious freedom upheld as a fundamental human right. It is crucial that the government and law enforcement agencies take steps to ensure the safety and rights of religious minorities.

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The disruption of the Mawar Sharon Church worship service in North Sumatra Province, Indonesia, has drawn attention to the challenges faced by religious minorities in the country. The incident highlights the importance of fostering a culture of tolerance, respect, and equal treatment for all religious communities. Indonesian society must work towards creating an environment where religious diversity is embraced, ensuring that the rights of minorities are protected. It is only through dialogue, understanding, and mutual respect that Indonesia can continue to be a harmonious and inclusive nation.