After the destruction of their churches last year, Christians in Indonesia erected small, blue tents to replace their houses of worship. But the government is now forcing believers to tear the tents down.
Authorities in Aceh Singkil, now under Sharia law, are to remove the tents on the grounds that they were only permitted in the first place for Christmas services.
"The congregations asked the district head and governor for permits prior to Christmas. There was one condition, though. After Christmas, the tents should be removed," District Secretary Azmi told UCA News.
The Rev. Jasman Bancin of the Pakpak Dairi Christian Protestant Church, a Lutheran church in Indonesia, said there was no such agreement. Bancin said that when Sharia police and public order officials arrived at the church in early January to remove the tents, the congregation resisted the move. "Mothers, children and youths blockaded them. They made their objections clear," he told UCA News.
Father Blasius S. Yesse, secretary of Sibolga Diocese, said: "This must not happen in Indonesia. Everyone has the right to worship anywhere. No one has the right to ban others to do so. The only hope is central government intervention. So local regulations don't go too far. The state must be there to guarantee freedom of worship."
Daud Pakeh, of the religious affairs ministry in Aceh, said church members should obtain building permits instead of erecting the tents. "Please prepare all the documents needed so their churches become legal and the congregations are at peace," he said.