by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – Authorities in Indonesia prohibited a building-less congregation from holding their 2022 Christmas services in a local shop as Christians continue to face uphill struggles in obtaining permits for church buildings, International Christian Concern (ICC) reports.
A group of Christians in the Lebak Regency just south of Jakarta had planned to hold their Christmas services in a shop as they had nowhere else to meet, ICC reports. However, just days before the holiday, the regent of Lebak, Iti Octavia Jayabaya, determined the shop had not been designated as a house of worship and ordered that it could not be used to celebrate Christmas.
The regent gave this order against the Christians in order to appease the local Muslim majority community, ICC said.
Jayabaya told the Christians to celebrate Christmas at an authorized church in Rangkasbitung, 20 kilometers away, ICC reports. When the Christians said the other church was too far away, the regent said they should apply for a church building permit.
However, obtaining such permits is notoriously difficult in Indonesia. “Unfortunately, it is extraordinarily difficult for churches to obtain building permits in Indonesia,” ICC said in its report. “In March 2019, authorities rejected a permit to construct a church in the same area as the shop.”
In a separate statement, persecution watchdog Open Doors UK noted: “Even if [churches] manage to fulfill all legal requirements (including winning court cases), the local authorities still often ignore them.”
Indonesia ranks 28th on the Open Doors UK World Watch List 2022 of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.
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