Muslims in Indonesia province tear down Christian churches

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A resident cries as she prays during a Sunday mass near a burned church in Aceh Singkil, Indonesia. Photo by Y.T. Haryono courtesy of Reuters.

A resident cries as she prays during a Sunday mass near a burned church in Aceh Singkil, Indonesia. Photo by Y.T. Haryono courtesy of Reuters.

ACEH SINGKIL, Indonesia, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Authorities in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province on Monday began tearing down several small Christian churches after hardline Muslims demanded their closure, citing a lack of building permits, and following religious violence.

Tensions are high among the ethnically and religiously diverse population of Aceh Singkil, where last week a mob burned down a church, leaving one person dead and forcing thousands of Christians to flee the area. Armed police and military troops have been deployed to the area and evacuees have returned.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and the vast majority of its citizens practice a moderate form of the religion. Aceh is its only province to implement Islamic Sharia law as it was granted autonomy as part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of separatist violence.

Police in Aceh Singkil district used sledgehammers and axes to tear down the churches – little more than small, wooden structures – as Christian members of the community looked on, many of them weeping.

“Whether or not we agree, we are going ahead with it,” said Paima Brutu, 35, caretaker of one Protestant church that was closed. He added the church had about 100 members.

“We have applied for the building permit again and again so at this point all we’re asking the government is to be allowed to have that permit,” he said.

The closures come after a meeting on Sunday of local political and religious figures, including Christians, in which all sides agreed to close the houses of worship, officials present at the meeting said.

Muslim residents, including members of the hardline group Islamic Defenders Front, had demanded that 10 churches be closed.

“On a day to day basis, the communities live in peace with each other and there is no pressure to close down these churches,” said Genti Brutu, the chief of Siompin village in Aceh Singkil where at least three churches were torn down.

“But what we are told is that it is a matter of permits so we have to abide by the rules.

Dozens of armored security vehicles patrolled the streets of a cluster of villages where at least 10 churches are slated to be demolished in the coming days.

A mob of hundreds of people burned down a small church in Aceh Singkil district last week, forcing thousands of Christians to flee to neighboring villages.

One Muslim member of the mob was killed, police said last week, adding that at least 10 people had been detained on suspicion of inciting violence.

The government has since deployed 1,300 police and military personnel to the area, with hundreds more on standby, to patrol the streets and stand guard outside churches that dot the small palm oil plantations in the district.

Christian residents of the run-down village attended a service on Sunday right next to the charred remains of their church, under the guard of about a dozen armed security personnel.

“At the moment, things are calm but we are on standby for any further incidents,” said Saladin, spokesman for Aceh police, adding that evacuees had since returned to their homes.

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  • Bernardo

    What else does one expect from a religion that teaches:

    o “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

    Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”

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  • Ron

    Isn’t this the place that suffered an earthquake and tsunami some years ago? and it was the “christian” nations like Australia that gave much aid. People gave to help the suffering and rebuilding. Islamic nations gave nothing. How ungrateful can you get? It is no surprise that churches are being closed because the evil will always persecute the good. In the past 15 years in the world, check out the nations with war and terror – almost all of them are islamic. The facts speak for themselves.

  • Christy

    The context of the Qur’an making statements against some Jews and Christians was directed toward certain Jewish and Christian tribes at the time of Muhammad who were attacking them – literally – thus endangering the relatively small Muslim community at the time.

    The Qur’an mentions elsewhere for Muslims to protect the “people of the Book” (Jews and Christians) who were not of the groups attacking the early Muslims.

    Remember Luke 19:27 — Jesus tells: “27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and KILL THEM in front of me.’”

    Taken out of context, one could claim Jesus is telling people to kill non-believers.

    Note: Muhammad’s divinely ordained goal was to eliminate idolatry in the Arabic people. He was quite successul at that. Gen 21:18 – God says He will make offspring of Ishmael into a “great nation” (Ishmael was progenitor of the Arabic people). Muhammad was sent to carry out that objective. He was successful at…

  • Laurel F.

    Luke 19:27 is a portion of a parable concerning the end of days and those who will be dealt with for their refusal to acknowledge their king.
    It is quite different from the direct quotes given in the Quran which are NOT parts of parables or stories.
    Very weak comparison, and the only one you could find, undoubtedly.
    The earlier, peaceful quotes you mention in the Quran are well known to be superceded by the later violent ones.
    Mohammed was taken in and cared for by the Jewish city of Medina, only to turn around and slaughter every Jewish inhabitant once he gained strength. A perfect example of what he expects of his followers.
    The man is indefensible.

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  • Jenny

    It’s so sad that evil is so prominent nowadays… Evil people despise anything and anyone good… I feel so sad for those Christians…

  • Mark West

    Muslims around the world contributed to rebuilding Aceh, the same as Christians. Aid arrived from many nations, including “Islamic nations.” And if you want to check out war in the last 15 years, what countries have the weapons come from? And what religion is predominate in those countries?

  • Rustam

    Mohammed don’t just killed enemies. He also killed trades attacked by Muslims,and even people like the jews from the Banu Qurayza tribe who were “suspected” of not respecting a treaty.
    The suras about “asking about your doubts to the people of the Book” or “the people of the Book being the closes to Muslims”, were abrogated by suras that came after them, like the one that says “slay the idolater where you find them.
    FInally the verse in Luke is about a parable, not about a real command of Jesus. He is telling a story in which a king ordered that.
    WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO DECEIVE??