In the Aceh district in Indonesia there are about 120,000 Christians, but they’re only allowed to have 1 full church and 4 house churches. That’s clearly not enough to serve the Christian population, so people meet in “unauthorized” places. Now the Indonesian government, prompted by Muslim hardliners, are sealing off these smaller houses of worship.
Another Christian house of worship has been sealed off in Aceh Singkil district, bringing the total since last week to 17 and marking a new low for religious intolerance in the staunchly Muslim province, a rights group said on Wednesday.
Agusta Mukhtar, a spokesman for the group Pro-Democracy People, said it was regrettable that the local authorities had sealed off the buildings following a protest on April 30 by hard-line groups including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which oppose the buildings.
“The religious peace here has been shattered by this anarchistic action that seeks religious domination for an inflexible faith,” he said in a statement. “This is a dark time in the history of religious freedom and tolerance in Aceh.”
Sixteen of the undung-undungs, small houses of worship not categorized as churches, were sealed off by district officials last week, on the pretext they had been built without proper permits. Another was closed off on Tuesday.
The authorities insist that only one church and four undung-undungs may be built in the entire district, despite one-sixth of its population of about 120,000 being Christian — the highest proportion of any district or city in Aceh.
If only we had a president who really understood Indonesia–who’d lived there and gone to school there, and whose stepfather was an Indonesian Muslim–maybe he could make a plea for religious tolerance…