Indonesian Mayor Opens His Office For Church After Muslim Protests

Sunday, June 18, 2023 | Tag Cloud

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

MEDAN, INDONESIA (Worthy News) – The mayor of Indonesia’s central city of Medan has allowed an evangelical congregation to worship in his office after angry Muslims and local officials prevented gatherings at a mall.

In comments shared with Worthy News, Medan Mayor Bobby Nasution confirmed he wanted the Indonesian Christian Elim Church (GEKI) to gather “inside the Mayor’s Office.”

The GEKI declared it “appreciated the very comfortable” facilities it could use last Sunday following its removal from Medan’s Plaza Suzuya Marelan mall

“The mayor also told us not to worship outside the Medan Mayor’s office [as we had done to demand freedom of worship] until he was able to help with our return to the Suzuya building,” the GEKI leadership added.

Nasution is the son-in-law of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, who recently urged local authorities to respect the constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

“Don’t let the constitution lose against an agreement [by local officials],” with opponents of Christian worship, Widodo told regional leaders in January. “The constitution must not be forfeited because of agreements. These examples make me think sometimes — is it really that difficult for someone to practice their religion? It saddens me to hear such a thing.”

He referred to several cases of churches being unable to meet in their rented or bought spaces, including even in Jakarta, the capital, after Muslim protests.


Everyone in Indonesia, Widodo said, has the same right to worship. “Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion and worship,” he stressed. “Even if it’s only one, two, three cities or regencies [where there are tensions], be watchful for such cases.”

However, in Medan, Muslim members of the influential Muslim Alliance (AUI) demanded that the city’s large Plaza Suzuya Marelan mall be used exclusively as a shopping center.

The AUI group, which organized mass rallies against the GEKI, pressured the mall leadership to “revoke” the congregation’s rental permission to hold worship services there.

Christians said the property administrator, who confronted the crowd of protesters, did not immediately respond to the AUI request to ban Christian worship services inside the mall.

But after the demonstrators returned this month with more people, the church could no longer hold its worship services in the Plaza Suzuya Marelan, Christians said.

A Christian entrepreneur with close ties to GEKI told Worthy News that the Muslim protests are part of broader opposition towards devoted Christians and Christian worship in her area.

“I know the church and know its difficulties. Yet the Bible teaches us to still pray for those in authority,” added the entrepreneur, who wanted to be named only Victoria for security reasons.


Victoria, whose full name is known to Worthy News, said she had been banned from joining the local shopkeepers association after Muslims objected to her faith in Christ and home church gatherings.

“But despite the opposition, my business is still flourishing thanks to the Lord Jesus who cares for us,” she told Worthy News.

Mayor Nasution confirmed the bias towards Christian worship by protesters and even within his apparatus. “In the case of the mall, other groups have used rooms for activities contrary to Islamic beliefs in the past. But the only time there were protests was when Christians wanted to worship there,” he noted in published remarks.

It is part of a broader pattern in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, according to the Christian advocacy group Open Doors. “If a church is seen to be preaching and spreading the Gospel, they soon run into opposition from Islamic extremist groups, especially in rural areas,” the group explained in a recent assessment. “In some regions of Indonesia, non-traditional churches struggle to get permission for church buildings, with the authorities often ignoring their paperwork.”

Open Doors ranks Indonesia 33rd on its annual World Watch List of 50 nations, where it says Christians suffer the most for their faith. There have been several attacks against church groups and even killings of Christians in recent years, Worthy News learned.

However, Open Doors suggested these were still isolated incidents in this nation of nearly 280 million people. “Thanks to effective anti-terror police, physical violence towards Christians by Islamic extremists is not common.”

However, that could change, according to Christian rights investigators. “Indonesia has taken on a more conservative Islamic character in recent years, which can put pressure on Christians, especially those from Muslim backgrounds,” Open Doors acknowledged.


“Many new Christians in Indonesia will seek to leave their home community and relocate somewhere else to get away from the [anti-Christian] harassment,” the group wrote.

Especially, “Indonesians brought up as Muslims who become Christian believers will likely face disapproval, intense pressure to return to Islam, verbal abuse and possibly social isolation.”

Open Doors also warned, “In some cases, families will withdraw all support, and married women may keep their new faith secret to avoid the threat of their husbands divorcing them. Some women face lots of psychological abuse, including death threats, for practicing Christianity.”

Yet Nasution, the Medan mayor, made clear he wants Christians to stay in his city and be able to worship.

He said his local government granted the GEKI permission to worship in three locations following Muslim opposition. “I also invite the GEKI congregation to worship in my office,” he stressed.

“Let us pray that a group of intolerant people does not tarnish the attitude of tolerance shown by the government,” the mayor said.

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