Local Authorities Closes Simalungun Christian Protestant Church Following Muslims' Opposition on Its Worship Service


Before the start of the Holy Week, on Saturday, Apr. 1, Simalungun Christian Protestant Church was forcibly closed due to the opposition of Muslims during its worship service. The church allegedly did not comply with the requirements for the building's permit.

Closing of the Simalungun Christian Protestant Church

On Sunday, Mar. 19, there were approximately 60 persons in the church, including GKPS members traveling from five neighboring communities. Two Muslims entered the Simalungun Protestant Christian Church (Gereja Kristen Protestan Simalungun or GKPS) in Purwakerta, took photographs and videos, and instructed the audience to disperse. However, Rev. Julles Purba said he completed the worship service until it was finished despite the Muslims' orders. 

Based on Pastor Julles's information with Morning Star News, "they told us that from now on, we should not hold worship service here since, they said, we have no permission." As mentioned, the religious building, which measures 13 meters by 8 meters and has a typical roof but no walls so that people walking by can see inside, was constructed two years ago for the congregation, which now has 36 members. "We never faced any dispute or conflict in the past two years," Pastor Julles said.

Moreover, in a video that was uploaded to social media on Monday, Mar. 20, and shows an argument with the intruders after the service, a man who is identified as the head of the local citizen association, Anne Rukun Warga, commands Christians who are standing on a road outside the church building, "Don't hold religious worship here anymore." Another church leader asks the man if he knows the applicable government regulations.

In addition, a young man wearing a gray T-shirt and another man subsequently appear and suggest that the wishes of the nearby residents should be followed. The leader of the citizen organization claims that he is not disturbing worship.

As per The Christian Post, Anne was with the local police and military chiefs, the religion department chief, the local leader of the Indonesia Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, or MUI), and the area National and Political Unity chairman when she entered the building. She said the building was illegal because it needed approval and a certificate of proper function, which are nearly impossible to obtain in Indonesia. Yet, Krisdian Saragih, the leader of the Purwakerta GKPS Elders Council, stated that the facility was shut down without following the appropriate legal procedures.

Also Read:What Happens to Church Buildings After the Churches Close?

The Reality of Shutting Down the Church

The Communion of Indonesia Christian Churches, also known as Persatuan Gereja Indonesia (PGI), wrote a complaint letter to Anne, who serves as the Purwakerta regent. In the letter, which was written by Henrek Lokra and signed by the head of the PGI Justice and Peace Body, it is stated that shutting down the church was an act of prejudice that does not reflect tolerance among religious communities.

The Baptist Paper reported that on the list of the 50 nations it is the most challenging to be a Christian, compiled by the Christian advocacy group Open Doors in 2023, Indonesia came in at position number 33. The Islamic nature of Indonesian culture has become more orthodox, and churches actively engage in evangelistic outreach, risk of being targeted by Islamic fundamentalist organizations.

Accordingly, if it becomes evident that a church is preaching and spreading the gospel, it will almost immediately face opposition from Islamic extremist groups, particularly in rural areas. Moreover, in some parts of Indonesia, non-traditional churches have difficulty obtaining authorization to construct church buildings because the local authorities frequently disregard the documents they submit.

Related Article:Declining Membership Forces 221-Year-Old Church To Close Permanently