Imprisoned Christian Sunday School Teachers in Indonesia Establish Church

The three Indonesian woman that are serving a three-year prison sentence after their conviction of “attempting to coerce children to change their religion” under the Indonesian “Child Protection Act” after running a Christian Sunday school, have started a church within their prison walls, according to Christian Freedom International (CFI).

|TOP|A huge outcry against their convictions has been heard by numerous Christian agencies, and CFI has called on the Indonesian government to release the three women immediately. It is also urging the U.S. government to ‘place all possible pressure on Indonesia for their immediate release.’

Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun. had run a popular Sunday school program in which several Muslim children participated in after obtaining parental consent. However, a local Islamic group brought charges against the three women for breaking the “Child Protection Act.”

Christian Freedom International President Jim Jacobson recently visited the women at the prison in the Indramayu district of West Java.

Of the conviction, Rebekka said, “My first reaction, I cry.” Rebekka is a medical doctor who had treated 30 to 40 Muslim and Christian patients everyday in her clinic based in Indramayu. Now she is confined in a dirty prison with a total of 437 inmates. Sixteen inmates are women. Eight women stay in a 5m by 5m cell and sleep together on a hard wooden platform with no blankets or sheets allowed.

“We have to pay money to the guards to turn the water on to the toilet in our cell,” said Rebekka.

“I wake up at 5:00am everyday to pray and read my Bible till 7:30am. At 8:00am they open the [cell] doors,” she continued.

The 16 women are taken to a 10m by 10m room until 4 pm. There is only one chair. Three times a day, they are fed an ‘egg-sized’ lump of rice and soybean mixture covered in ants, assist news has reported.

|QUOTE|“We eat breakfast, lunch, dinner in that room on the floor. No dining room. We get a small portion of lamb once a week,” said Rebekka.

But amazingly, Rebekka has been allowed to lead a worship service on Sundays in a small outdoor courtyard area of the prison, according to Christian Freedom International. Each Sunday, around 35 people are permitted to enter the prison to join the service.

This has brought forth one male inmate to convert to Christianity. This brings the total to 7 Christians in the prison.

“This is ‘School of Trust Bible School.’ Not a jail,” said Rebekka.

“Sometimes I am depressed, but not for long. God comforts me everyday with joy and peace. I pray for the other prisoners and guards. One prisoner converted and became a Christian. We share our faith with others,” said Rebekka.

“We have been here 140 days. I want to do God’s will. I hope to be released soon,” said Rebekka.

Rebekka said, “I am not angry at the people who brought the charges against me. I forgive them. I bless them.”

Etta, who has left three children at home, said, “I had a dream of going home. I am depressed sometimes. I am not angry about being here. My accusers didn’t understand.”

Ratna, a mother of two, said with tearful eyes, “I miss my children so much.”

Rebekka told CFI president Jim Jacobson, “I want people to know about our situation. I want prayer support. I was surprised so happily that American Christians were so interested in our case. Please pray for us.”

According to Jacobson, “under the Children Protection Act and other regulations, no Christian is safe in Indonesia. This case should be a wakeup call for all caring Christians.” Indonesia is recognised as the largest Muslim nation in the world.