Is the Forced Church Closure in Sumatra a Form of Legalized Discrimination?

A recent forced church closure on the island of Sumatra has people questioning if the island’s guidelines for church gatherings constitute legalized discrimination against Christians.

Church Closure

Often, church closures on the island are sudden and without explanation. FMI’s Executive International Director Bruce Allen says it’s a disturbing trend impacting FMI partners in the area.

“Just a couple weeks ago, late August, I received a very disturbing video in which Indonesian authorities in uniform; so, it looked like police, there could have possibly also been military personnel there at the at the congregation site. But they interrupted the Christian church’s worship service, and forced its closure,” Allen explains.

Congregation members recorded the incident on their cell phones. Allen says in the seven-minute clip he was sent, a woman fell at the feet of the officers, begging them to allow the church service to continue. Based on his research, Allen believes neighbors may have called the authorities demanding the closure of the church.

Reasons for Closures

As it turns out, citizens can indeed demand church closures, especially if it violates one of four regulations. One of the regulations for a church establishment is a membership numbering of at least 90 people. Another regulation requires the church to have the approval of 60 non-Christians in their village.

If these regulations were not restrictive enough, churches must also obtain a permit for the construction of a church as well as the approval from a community forum for religious harmony. Keep in mind, Indonesia is one of the world’s largest Muslim-dominate nations. Per the Joshua Project, only 3.18 percent of Indonesia’s population are Christians.

In an email, Allen comments, “Similar regulations do exist for the construction of mosques, so the radical Muslims claim there is equality. And yet, when 90% of the population is Muslim, it is much easier to reach the minimum quota, and the Christian neighbors, trying to live at peace with all men, give their permission for mosques to be built for the communities. So, the truth is, it is much easier for a mosque to be established than a church.”

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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Bethann Flynn