Indonesian Christians in Aceh Have to Worship in the Woods

The members of six churches which were destroyed last year at the behest of Islamist extremists in Aceh province in Indonesia are continuing to meet and pray, in forests.

Aceh province enforces sharia law as state law, the only province in Indonesia to so do.

Mobs incited by hardline preachers demanded all unregistered churches be destroyed and attacked several, burning them to the ground. Last year 11 churches were destroyed, some by angry mobs and some by police who maintained the churches were unregistered and therefore had to be destroyed.

Christians who are still worshipping claim the churches have not been reconstructed due to ongoing hatred.

The perpetrators live in the neighborhood and they always watch my church members' activities,” one church member told World Watch Monitor.

Non-Muslims have to obtain 60 signatures from persons of another faith and receive a permit from the authorities in order to build a place of worship. Christians fear the authorities will not issue permits as to do so would anger Islamists in Aceh province and jeopardize their positions in the upcoming February 2017 elections.

Churches are frequently attacked by Islamist extremists. In Islamic-State-controlled Mosul, Iraq, militants demolished a historic church on Thursday, even as Iraqi government forces fight to regain control of the city.

Sa’a Church at the center of Mosul was bulldozed by ISIS militants on Thursday,” an unnamed military source told Ahlul Bayt News Agency.

Get a preview of Clarion Project’s upcoming film, Faithkeepers, about the violent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The film features exclusive footage and testimonials of Christians, Baha’i, Yazidis, Jews, and other minority refugees, and a historical context of the persecution in the region.