investigators said Wednesday, October 19. The Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) said its contacts have reported "a series of new church closures on the Indonesian island of Java," in recent weeks. In each case, "the Islamic militant group, Alliance Against Apostasy (AGAP) intimidated the churches and forced the closure of services," VOMC said in a statement to BosNewsLife News Center.
In one incident "on October 2, the AGAP put pressure the Efata Church in Bandung, West Java to stop renovations and all other church activities, claiming the church did not have the necessary permissions. As a result, all activities of the 120-member church have been stopped," the group added.
Hundreds of churches have been forced to close down, especially in areas such as West Java, said Christian Freedom International (CFI), another religious rights group which conducted an investigation there.
Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country. 88 per cent of the population is Muslim, while Christians make up less than 10 per cent, according to Christian estimates. Muslim groups have increased their protests against Christian activities, human rights groups say, amid fears Christianity will spread in the aftermath of tsunami relief efforts, in which many Christian aid groups were involved.
In addition three churches near Jakarta, in Jatimulya, East Bekasi, were forced to close
five weeks ago, VOMC said.
"Since then, they have been holding services on the streets. In an attempt to stop the services, on Sunday, October 16 three hundred Muslims gathered with their prayer mats to conduct their own service where the Christians normally meet. When the Christians moved to another street, some militants began insulting and mocking them," the group claimed.
A pastor, identified only as "Anna from the local Presbyterian Church" was allegedly pushed into a drain. Police in the area did not intervene and some reportedly joined the mob, VOMC said. Police officials were not immediately available for comment. Church leaders have been meeting with lawyers to determine an appropriate response. "There are concerns of physical violence if the church services are held this coming weekend," the group said amid worries of a return to religious bloodshed.
10,000 Christians died between 1998 and 2003 at the hands of Islamic Jihad Warriors, according to human rights group Open Doors. About 1,000 churches were burnt down by Islamist mobs, Open Doors said. (With reports from Indonesia and BosNewsLife Research)