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Church Walls Ordered Razed by Local Indonesian Officials

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (Worthy News)-- Crowds cheered as a demolition crew destroyed the newly erected walls of the Batak Protestant Church in the Bekasi district of Jakarta Thursday in yet another setback for Christians trying to survive in the planet's most populous Muslim nation.

For the past 13 years the Batak congregation had been meeting in residential homes every Sunday, but when it grew to 600 members, Pastor Adven Nababan applied for a building permit and then obtained the signatures of 60 non-Christian neighbors as required by local law.

However, as soon as church construction began in January, hundreds of Bekasi Muslims began to protest at the site. In March, police cordoned off the site and told church elders to demolish what they already built. When they refused, Bekasi officials declared the 60 signatures required for their building permit to be fraudulent and then sent a demolition crew to the construction site.

At the construction site, about 100 members of the Batak Church were singing hymns and praying. When the demo crew arrived, the congregation reportedly locked arms and stood in front of the church as hundreds of militant Muslims from Islamist groups applauded the demo crew by shouting 'Alahu Akbar'.

Islamist groups, such as the Islamic People’s Forum and the Islamic Defenders Front, have been implicated in numerous attacks on the houses of worship of minority religions, according to a February Human Rights Watch report. "Such groups seek to justify violence by espousing an interpretation of Sunni Islam that labels most non- Muslims as 'infidels,' and Muslims who do not adhere to Sunni orthodoxy as 'blasphemers.'"

After the demo crew reduced the church's walls to rubble, Pastor Nababan said his congregation would still meet at the building site on Sunday, even though there is no roof or walls.

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