Christians worldwide asked to unite in prayer as Muslim extremists burn churches, spread violence in Indonesia

Residents cry as they attend a Sunday mass prayer near a burned church at Suka Makmur Village in Aceh Singkil, Indonesia Aceh province, on Oct. 18, 2015.Reuters

An organisation serving persecuted Christians has called on the world's Christian community to unite in prayer in light of the recent spurt in violence in Indonesia, according to BBC.

Open Doors USA made the call after Muslim extremists reportedly torched three church buildings last Tuesday, killing one Christian. The criminal acts reportedly followed a social media message spread by Muslim extremists on Friday urging others to take action against Christian churches in the region.

"Christianity is opposed in Indonesia. It is a very difficult place to work, but we need to be praying, we need to be going, we need to be interacting with and loving Muslims in that culture. I think we keep pressing forward, but we know what we're dealing with,'' said Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry.

Interviewed by the Mission News Network (MNN), Curry said the "Indonesian Christian Church (HKI) was burned down. Their pastor and the congregation have been greatly affected by this. We're asking people to know what's happening in Indonesia to support persecuted Christians there, to be praying for this church."

A human rights group said the attackers also burnt down a second Roman Catholic church before torching a third church, where a man died in clashes with Christians defending the church and the police, BBC reported.

Curry explained that the crime was sparked by vicious social media campaign urging Muslims to desecrate Christian churches, which they claimed were unlicensed.

"With all of the technology available, there's more opportunity for people to stir up dissension, and (now) you have this incident in Indonesia, where this church was burned down,'' he added.

Pastor Erde, whose church was also torched last month, meanwhile told the news outlet that he recently witnessed hundreds of extremists pouring into the police and legislative offices to demand the closure of all churches in the area.

"Every church member is guarding their own church right now. Please pray that there won't be any more church demolitions today," said the pastor.

There are about 10 churches in Aceh Singkil, an island within Sumatra.

In response to the situation, BBC said Indonesia's President Joko Widodo tweeted on Wednesday: "Stop the violence in Aceh Singkil. Any background of violence, especially religion and belief, destroys diversity."

The World Evangelical Alliance has, however, criticised Widodo, saying his administration has not done enough to curb persecution of religious minorities at the hands of Islamic radicals.

They also described President Widodo's measures as "too lukewarm to rein in extremists' threats."

Curry remains hopeful that firm actions could still be taken to stop the growing violence.

Indonesia has the largest Islamic population in the world, according to the Pew Research Centre, and ranks #47 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians, BBC said.