By BosNewsLife Asia Service
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife)– Muslim protesters have prevented a Protestant church from holding its Sunday service in Indonesia’s province of West Java after similar incidents elsewhere in this heavily Islamic nation, Christians said Thursday, November 15.
The Batak Society Christian Church of Philadelphia in Bekasi district canceled its service after a “Muslim mob” stopped them from worshiping, the church leader said.
“They were there an hour or so before we were to start our service,” said Reverend Palti Panjaitan in published remarks. “They brought loudspeakers and played very loud music. They also threatened us.”
Panjaitan criticized police who allegedly told the congregation to cancel the service to prevent g further violence. “By so doing, they violated the congregation’s constitutional rights,” he said.
Elsewhere authorities in the capital of West Java province, Bandung, also shut the worship building of an Indonesian church citing law violations .
The 20-year-old church, known as the Huria Kristen Indonesia (HKI) was forced to end its services there on October 23 after leading Muslims pressured residents to withdraw their signatures of approval, its pastor, Hari Hutagulung, said.
They aren’t alone facing difficulties. Many Christians in Indonesia’s most conservative Muslim province of Aceh are without their own places of worship this month after authorities closed nine church buildings as part of a reported wider crackdown on “illegal” religious services.
Additionally, a previously closed church in Bogor City, 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, has been told it will not be allowed to reopen, according to local Christians.
Instead authorities want Bogor’s Taman Yasmin Indonesia Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) to relocate about 7 kilometers (4 miles) away after a September meeting of the mayor, Interior minister and officials of the hard-line Muslim Communications Forum (Forkami), Christians said.
Church officials said a they doubt whether they can there because the church would need a new building permit which requires a petition signed by 60 Muslims and 90 Christians.
The church building in Bogor was closed in April 2010 by Mayor Diani Budiarto, who said the church lacked the necessary permits despite an Indonesian Supreme Court ruling to the contrary.
Since then, the congregation has been holding services in front of the presidential palace in protest.
Christians have expressed concerns about the perceived growing pressure on minority Christians in what is the world’s largest Muslim nation.
Christians comprise less than nine percent of the country’s nearly 250 million population, according to official estimates.
(With additional reporting BosNewsLife International Correspondent Joseph DeCaro).