The members of six Indonesian churches, destroyed last year at the hands of Islamist extremists , are seeing growth despite rising Christian persecution and having to hold services in the forest.
According to the Clarion Project, churches in Aceh province were burnt to the ground by angry mobs and police officers. Those actions were incited by hardline Muslim residents to destroy all unregistered churches.
The Aceh province enforces Sharia law, making it nearly impossible for Christians to rebuild churches.
Non-Muslims must obtain 60 signatures from persons of another faith and receive a permit from the authorities in order to build a church.
However, believers fear the authorities will not hand over building permits as to do so would anger Muslim voters in the run-up to local elections in February 2017.
Lahmot, a Christan activist whose name has been changed for security reasons, told World Watch Monitor that it is too late to expect authorities to issue permits since candidates have begun registering for the election.
But Christians still worship despite the political climate, daily threats and tropical rains that make it difficult to gather together.
“[Rain] has happened many times, but we still continue the service. Even if the tents are leaking and rainwater or mud is splashing in from the outside, no-one ever leaves the service!” said a member of the Indonesian Christian Church.
“I’m sad that we have to worship in tents in the middle of a palm-oil plantation. But we’re keeping our spirits high,” Boru Manik, a local church member, said.
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