A year ago, Islamic extremists and police burnt down churches in Aceh Singkil in Indonesia and these places of worship have not been rebuilt because of discrimination against Christians. However, despite the destruction, the number of church members are still on the rise, World Watch Monitor reports.
Churches in Aceh province were demolished by hardline Muslim residents and police following demands from residents to destroy all unregistered churches. Aceh Singkil is a rural “regency” in Indonesia’s only Sharia-ruled province, making it nearly impossible for Christians to rebuild churches.
According to CBN News, non-Muslims must obtain 60 signatures from persons of another faith and get a permit from the authorities in order to build a church. But, believers fear that government officials would be reluctant in issuing building permits since it would be an unpopular move and anger Muslim voters; the election is nearing in February 2017.
Eleven churches were demolished last year and members of six of these churches continue to meet in tents. Noldi, a church leader, disclosed that his church meets in two sites to cater for its growing members.
“I’m sad that we have to worship in tents in the middle of a palm-oil plantation, said Boru Manik, a local church member. “But we’re keeping our spirits high.”
Christian activist Lahmot, not his real name, said despite the political climate, daily threats and tropical rains that make worshipping difficult, church members still continue with their fellowship.
“[Rain] has happened many times, but we still continue the service. Even if the tents are leaking and rainwater or mud is splashing in from the outside, no-one ever leaves the service!” said a member of the Indonesian Christian Church.
Worldwatchmonitororg. (2016). World Watch Monitor. https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2016/11/4721193/
Cbncom. (2016). CBNcom (beta). http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2016/november/indonesian-church-members-keep-spirits-high-despite-worshipping-in-woods