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Muslims block Sunday prayer service

Sunday service canceled after congregation threatened

Church members rally outside the Presidential Palace in Jakarta  Church members rally outside the Presidential Palace in Jakarta
  • Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • November 5, 2012
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Muslim protesters yesterday blocked the congregation of a Protestant church from holding Sunday service in front of their sealed place of worship in Bekasi district, West Java.

A spokesman for HKBP, the Batak Society Christian Church of Philadelphia, said they had to call off the service after scores of protesters gathered to stop them worshiping.

“They were there an hour or so before we were to start our service. They brought loudspeakers and played very loud music. They also threatened us,” said the Reverend Palti Panjaitan.

He said he tried to reason with the protesters, who included women and children, but to no avail.

Police who were there “told us to cancel the service to prevent any violence,” he said. “By doing so, however, they violated our constitutional right.”

At another protest in May, the congregation was subjected to hate speeches and death threats during a service to mark Ascension Day at their half built church.

HKBP has been trying to get permission to build a church in the district after submitting an application in 2007.

In December 2009, local authorities banned the Protestants from continuing construction work and from worshiping on the site.

In July last year, the Supreme Court sided with the congregation, but the permit has still not been issued.

Local Muslim leaders say the application to build the church in Jejalen Raya village, which needed signed backing from residents, was faked.

They accuse the church members of encouraging villagers to sign blank petitions, enlisting the support of the dead and offering 200,000 rupiah (US$21) per signature, according to a report from the Jakarta Globe.

The congregation currently tries to hold Sunday services twice a month in front of the church. On the other Sundays, they stage peaceful rallies in front of the Presidential Palace.

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