JAKARTA Indonesian Christians held a prayer vigil in Jakarta on Sunday urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to re-open their church and stop intimidation by hardliners.
About 200 people, mostly members of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church, prayed and sang hymns outside the state palace.
“We hope the president will protect us from harassment by radical groups and re-open the church which is legally ours so we can conduct worship,” the group’s spokeswoman Novita Rini said.
The Christians have been forced to hold services on the pavement outside their church in Bogor city, south of Jakarta, after its permit was revoked in 2008, Rini said.
“But the Supreme Court overturned the decision in December 2010 and ordered for the church to be re-opened. The Bogor city administration however refused to comply,” she added.
The congregation has since moved their weekly service to a house near a church but faced intimidation and verbal abuse from hardliners, Rini said. “A few dozen would harass us every weekend. But last Sunday, hundreds intimidated us with sticks and rocks and shouted at us to leave,” she added.
Rights groups say religious intolerance is on the rise in Indonesia, citing the persecution of the minorities and the torching of churches.
Amnesty International last Wednesday called on the government to guarantee the safety of the congregation and conduct “prompt, independent and impartial” investigations. (Oman Tribune February 01, 2012)