Indonesia (MNN) — In the last week, authorities in Indonesia's Aceh province shut the doors of nine registered churches and six Buddhist temples, reports Morning Star News, an Indonesian paper.
Aceh is the only province that uses Islamic sharia law, and the move is causing growing concern among believers as the signs of growing religious intolerance become more blatant.
It began this spring when elections put a hard-liner Islamic governor in office. Voice of the Martyrs Canada and Open Doors both reported an immediate crack-down with the closure of 17 churches in May. Since then, violence against Christians has also increased throughout the archipelago, with incidents in Jakarta, Singkil, the Moluccas, and Central Sulawesi.
Aside from the church closures, extremists also bombed a Christian's home and a church building in the Pamona Timur. No one was injured in the blasts, but the attacks put believers on alert in the region, considered a hotbed for Islamist militancy.
Although Indonesia's constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion, persecuted church watchdogs and rights groups say the last decade has revealed the government turning a blind eye to attacks on Christians.
Open Doors explains that places of worship must have a permit to build or hold worship in an existing building. An applicant needs approval from neighbors by gathering copies of their identification cards and signatures. Even after meeting the requirements, notes Voice of the Martyrs Canada, an applicant can still be turned away. If that happens, it leaves worship communities vulnerable to the next action which could be closure, similar to the recent activity in Aceh.
Still, the hope of Christ is a message that more people are gathering to hear. The Church has grown exponentially in the last half century, increasing from 1.3 million to 13 million.
Pray specifically for continued growth of the Church in the midst of intense opposition and growing persecution. Pray that believers will stand firm in their faith as a testament to God's ability to supply courage in all circumstances. Pray that militant groups in Indonesia would come to faith in Jesus Christ.