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Indonesia: Pastor Arrested

After closing the Indonesia Pentecost Church (Gpdi) in Sumedang, Indonesia, for using an illegal building permit, authorities arrested the church’s pastor for forcing others to attend church. The church was built more than 24 years ago, and it has experienced threats only within the last few months.

“This church building is a permanent building, and it has been there for more than 24 years,” said Theophilus Belo, director of Jakarta Christian Communication Forum (FKKJ). “During that time, everything was going well. But on July this year, this congregation got a problem. Their church has been closed by local administration.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011, a local administrative group threatened to close the church. The church had previously received a letter urging them to stop Christian activities, and the district head of Jatinangor in Sumedang, Nandang Suparman, said the church building had no legal building permit.

“Until today we have not yet received their building permit documentation application,” Suparman said. “We have checked if they are already submitting it from a district administrative level. On May this year, if I’m not mistaken, we sent them a letter to urge them to start applying for their building permit. We are already giving them a chance to start applying, but they don’t do it.”

Suparman urged the church to move its services into a church building belonging to the Institute of Public Administration (IPND). “I’ll talk with the leaders of IPND that this congregation is permitted to use their institute’s church building,” he said.

The Indonesian Christian organization Kabar Gereja reports that the IPND cannot accommodate the congregations of any more closed churches. At least 14 churches have been relocated to the IPND’s church building.

Gpdi’s pastor was put on trial on Oct. 3 at Sumedang Government Court, and he faces up to three months in prison for forcing others to attend church. The church’s closure adds to the long list of churches that have been closed by Indonesian authorities. Other church leaders have also been arrested after their churches closed, according to Kabar Gereja. According to the FKKJ, at least 30 churches have been closed or burned in Indonesia in 2011.

Sources: VOM contacts, Kabar Gereja

Posted: October 12, 2011

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