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Indonesia

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Barnabas supports this church-planting couple in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Christians, whose history dates back to the 16th century, comprise 12-20% of the population in a country that is home to more Muslims than any other in the world. Believers are coming under increasing pressure from Islamists. Local authorities often allow militant Islamist groups to commit anti-Christian violence with impunity, sometimes even collaborating with them, and they also bow to Islamist pressure by refusing building permits for churches.

Pastor Bernhard Maukar was leading a service at his church in West Java in 2013 when it was invaded by a gang of 50 Muslim extremists, who vandalised the building and assaulted him. Instead of arresting the attackers, the authorities jailed Pastor Bernhard for three months for holding services without a permit. The church’s attempts to obtain a permit had been blocked by local officials.

For many decades Indonesia, a country founded on the doctrine of Pancasila, which includes a commitment to national unity, was a model of equality and harmonious relations between different religious groups. But in the last years of the 20th century a massive campaign of violence against Christians was launched by Islamists intent on bringing the whole country under sharia law. According to some estimates, Central Sulawesi and the Maluku Islands saw 30,000 Christians killed and half a million driven out during these years. The appalling bloodshed of this time has not recurred on the same scale, but Islamists still wield considerable power and influence.

In Aceh province, local authorities implement sharia law, making life particularly difficult for Christians. Five Christians in Aceh were arrested in September 2013 accused of influencing 70 Muslims to become Christians.

Many other local governments in Muslim-majority areas also attempt to implement sharia-inspired regulations, some of which discriminate against Christians. The authorities have encouraged Muslims to migrate into Christian-majority areas; once they outnumber the Christians, they can press for the imposition of sharia.

The central government also fails to protect Christians. Although the Supreme Court ordered that two sealed-off church buildings in West Java be reopened, the national government has failed to enforce these decisions. Various laws impede the public expression of Christian faith, evangelism and the construction of churches. 

Christian schools also came under pressure in 2013. Influential Muslim scholars issued a fatwa against Christian schools in Central Java. Then, in August, two petrol bombs were thrown into the compound of a Christian school in Jakarta. Christian students can face harassment at other schools; in September, a nine-year-old Christian boy was too frightened to go back to school after a teacher pressurised him to convert to Islam.

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    • Pray for a church in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, whose building has been confiscated by the authorities, who claim that the sales contract signed more than 14 years ago was invalid. The seizure of the building may be motivated by hostility to the congregation’s Christian activities, but the incentive could also be financial; the building now has a market value of around US$1 million. The State Property Fund, which originally owned it, has said the church will get back only the US$46,000 it paid 14 years ago. The church insists it has fulfilled the terms of the contract. Pray for the congregation, that their place of worship will be restored to them and that God will protect them from further harassment. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 6 hours ago

    • Give thanks to the Lord that Barnabas Fund is able to help oppressed and persecuted Christian communities by providing grants to Christian students in higher education. Pray for those who have received this help in the past, that they will give a voice to their brothers and sisters and will help to resource, empower and protect them in the face of hostility. Ask that God’s sustaining grace will uphold those who are currently studying, often under severe pressure from the majority community, and pray that they may be equipped for spiritual leadership. Praise God for their dedication to His service, and ask Him to use them powerfully in their various vocations. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Aug 2014 00:00

    • Almighty God, we pray that You will protect Your people in the Holy Land. We pray especially for the congregation of a church in Gaza City, whose church compound was attacked with a small explosive device on 26 February. We give You thanks that the church, school, nursery and pastor’s house were undamaged and that a fi re that was lit under the pastor’s car was extinguished when Christians came outside to investigate. We pray that the congregation may stand firm for You in the face of the threatening message that was written on the wall facing the church gate: “We’ll get you soon, O worshippers of the cross.” We ask that there will be no further attempt to attack this church or others in the area. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Taliban militants attempted to attack a Christian-run day-care centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 28 March, saying it was “a church used to convert Muslims to Christianity”. The attackers mistakenly targeted the next-door building, which houses workers on an agricultural and de-mining project, instead; two Afghan civilians, one a young girl, died in the crossfi re. All five Taliban bombers were also killed in the raid on the heavily-secured compound. The day-care centre that they were attempting to target, which is used by expatriates, is said to hold Christian worship services on certain days. Ask the Lord to change the hearts of those who plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Christians and other targets in Afghanistan; pray that they will turn instead to Him. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “He was always a light for Christ and he had a love and commitment that he expressed for the Afghan people because of that love for Christ.” The widow of Dr Jerry Umanos, an American doctor who was shot dead at the Christian-run hospital where he worked in Kabul, Afghanistan, spoke of her husband’s faith and ministry. Two visiting American Christians, father and son Gary and John Gabel, were also killed on 24 April when an Afghan security guard opened fire on the staff he was meant to be protecting. Pray for comfort for the grieving families of the three men, and ask the Lord to safeguard the future of the hospital, which provides much-needed medical care and also trains Afghan doctors and nurses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

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