Muslim villagers in West Java, Indonesia on Christmas Day stopped a congregation from celebrating Christmas in a home, according to various sources.
The interference came within hours of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s historic visits to two churches in nearby Bogor, where he urged congregations to continue harmonious relations with people of other faiths.
In Cilebut Barat, Sukaraja District, about 64 kilometers (39 miles) south of Jakarta, the group of Muslims lined up outside a home where Batak Christian Church’s Christmas Day worship was planned and kept worshippers from entering the home, according to video footage appearing on social media.
A woman from the church is heard in the video pleading with the group to leave them alone.
“Come on, many of you insult us, are tyrannizing us,” she says. “Please, the worship service is only a few minutes, so it’s up to you to talk about [relenting]. Please, come on.”
After a passerby apparently urges the Muslims to give no response, the woman repeatedly asks what loss would they incur from the service that would cause them to forbid worship on Christmas. She is repeatedly told only that the home is not a church building.
Onlookers, police officers and soldiers present make no response to the Christian woman in the video.
In North Sulawesi Province on the island of Sulawesi, nearly 20 Muslims in Buyat Selatan village, Kotabunan District stopped members of Rototok Advent Church from holding Christmas Day worship at a home, also saying a house is not a church building, according to online news outlet detik.com.
Requirements for obtaining permission to build houses of worship in Indonesia are onerous and hamper the establishment of such buildings for Christians and other faiths, rights advocates say. Indonesia’s Joint Ministerial Decree of 2006 makes requirements for obtaining permits nearly impossible for most new churches.
Even when small, new churches are able to meet the requirement of obtaining 90 signatures of approval from congregation members and 60 from area households of different religions, they are often met with delays or lack of response from officials. Well-organized radical Muslims secretly mobilize outside people to intimidate and pressure members of minority faiths.
Conflicts over religious minorities’ houses of worship have increased since the reformation era that followed the end of President Suharto’s regime in 1998. Since 2018, there have been 398 incidents of religious conflict targeting houses of worship, according to the Setara Institute.
Indonesia is ranked 28th in Open Doors 2022 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.