By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (Worthy News)– Church closures in Indonesia that peaked during the Christmas holidays have spilled over into January as Islamist groups continue to target Christian congregations, according to International Christian Concern.
Last month, ICC reported that at least five churches were shut down by Islamists who used protests to pressure government officials into closing down congregations under the pretext they lacked the proper building permits; these permits are often impossible for Christian congregations to obtain, but even when they are, a building permit is no guarantee that a church will be allowed to conduct services.
According to ICC, building a church of any denomination in Indonesia can be a byzantine process that can take up to ten years to obtain all the permits required by law. This process is governed by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan: a protocol issued by local authorities that is required for any construction to commence. Further, in order to build a church, permission must also be obtained from area residents where the building is to be built as well as from the local Group for Interfaith Dialogue. But even if permission is finally granted, local officials can be pressured by Islamic groups to block church construction for administrative reasons.
As the world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia has seen a rise in the number of acts of intolerance against religious minorities, including Christians, Ahmadi Muslims and others. And though Indonesia's constitution provides for freedom of religion, minorities are often the object of violent abuse from majority Muslims.