by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – Despite their constitutional right to freedom of religion, Christians in Muslim-majority Indonesia face an uphill struggle in obtaining the required permits to build churches: both the government and local Muslims oppose them.
In a recent example of the difficulty in obtaining approval to build a church, a congregation in northeastern Indonesia’s portion of Borneo Island was denied the requisite permit last month, Morning Star News reports.
“Indonesia’s Joint Ministerial Decree of 2006 makes requirements for obtaining permits nearly impossible for most new churches,” MSN noted in its report.
Authorities in Tarakan City in North Kalimantan Province informed Mawar Sharon Christian Church on February 28 that their proposed church building would violate state regulations as it would be located in an area inhabited predominantly by Muslim Tidung tribes, MSN reports.
However, Kristianto Triwibowo S.Pi, coordinator of the Indonesian Christian Student Movement (Gerakan Mahasiswa Kristen Indonesia, or GMKI), Region VI Chapter, noted in a statement that such arguments against the building of churches constitute a violation of the Indonesian constitution, MSN reports. “The state guarantees the right to worship and embrace the religion of all people,” Kristianto said in a press statement on March 7. “Instead of rejecting the services of the Mawar Sharon Church (GMS), which should not happen, we must tolerate each other and maintain diversity,” Kristianto added.
Noting the regularity with which congregations are denied approval to build churches, the Open Doors international Christian advocacy group confirmed in a website statement: “In some regions of Indonesia, non-traditional churches struggle to get permission for church buildings, with the authorities often ignoring their paperwork.”
Indonesia ranks 33rd on the US Open Doors World Watch List 2023 of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.