01/17/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on January 13, 2019, masses from the Griya Martubung Complex, Medan Labuhan Subdistrict in Indonesia’s North Sumatra held a protest against a house that was allegedly converted into a place of worship for Bethel Indonesia Church. In a video obtained by ICC, local residents surrounded Pastor Jans Fransman Saragih’s residence as Sunday service was about to commence. They pushed and shouted at church members, before demanding them to shut down.
A member of the church shared the video on Instagram and said, “We didn’t do things that were prohibited. Where is justice in this country? Where is our religious tolerance? God is with us.”
The head of the Medan Ministry of Religion Office, Al Ahyu, confirmed the incident and explained that the residents protested because the house did not have permission to operate as a place of worship, as stipulated by government regulations. Local residents had already filed a complaint last August, but Pastor Jans Fransman did not agree to stop worship at his house until November. He was supposed to halt services once the new year came, but he did not, leading to the January 13 protest.
However, at present, it is extremely difficult for non-Muslims to obtain the proper permits to build places of worship in the predominantly Muslim nation of Indonesia. Christian leaders have called for changes to legislation and complained about the obstacles facing churches that are attempting to obtain a permit.
Nitha Fenita, a Christian broadcaster at Cristy Radio, shared her thoughts with ICC, “This would be a big problem in a country known for its tolerance. I would describe it as a household with two religions and the members often have disputes about their beliefs. If there is no tolerance allowed, the relationship between the two parties would be inversely related [where one increases, another one decreases]. Perhaps the authorities can help manage the issues once or twice, but we have to be aware that this rift will be exploited by other [groups with political] interests which ultimately could divide the Indonesian people. Educating this family on tolerance is a very urgent matter and it needs to be taught now.”
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “As the Indonesian presidential election is only three months away, many radicals are seeking the opportunity to incite hatred and religious persecution against Christians during this campaign period. Jakarta must protect the rights of its citizens to freely worship, not only because it is enshrined in its constitution, but also to honor the country’s founding principles of Pancasila, which is to maintain a harmonious Indonesia based on religious tolerance, humanity, unity, democracy, and social justice.”
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