Christianity Growing in Indonesia Despite Burning of Churches By Islamist Extremists

(World Watch Monitor)A Christian church burns in Aceh, Indonesia following a mob attack in October 2015

Not even the torching of their churches could stop Christians in Indonesia from holding services to worship God—even if they have to do it inside tents or in the forest.

Eleven churches were burned and destroyed in the Indonesian province of Aceh last year, some by Islamist extremists and some others by the police, reports said.

But despite the mounting Christian persecution in Indonesia, church membership is climbing, according to World Watch Monitor (WWM).

Of the 11 churches destroyed last year, the members of six of these churches continue to meet in tents. Other congregants have joined other churches despite fear of more violence, WWM learned.

The extremists started destroying churches in Aceh in October 2015 following clashes between Muslims and Christians in another part of the country. The extremists sought to destroy all unregistered churches in their province, which enforces Sharia law.

Christians in the province said the destroyed churches have not been reconstructed due to ongoing campaign of hatred against them launched by extremists.

Even if the Christians in the province want to rebuild their churches, doing so is considered nearly an impossible task since the law imposes tough requirements. One such requirement is that they have to obtain 60 signatures from persons of another faith and receive a permit from the authorities to build a church.

Christian leaders in the province said it's highly unlikely that the authorities will hand over building permits as to do so would anger Muslim voters ahead of local elections in February 2017.

But despite the threats to their lives, the harsh political climate and the tropical rains that make it more difficult for them to hold gatherings, Christians in Aceh province are still practicing their faith and worshipping God.

"[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," a member of the Indonesian Christian Church told World Watch Monitor.

"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," said another local church member.