Indonesia: Government crackdown forces church to hold Christmas celebrations outside

Over 1,000 churches have been demolished in Indonesia since 2006 as part of a crackdown against minority faiths.Reuters

A church in Indonesia is set to hold its sixth Christmas service outside the State Palace in Jakarta since the government closed its building in 2010.

The Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin in Bogor, West Java, will hold an interfaith celebration, and will be joined by human rights organisations, a spokesman told the Jakarta Post.

They hope to inspire other churches and Christian groups to stand up for their right to freedom of religion,

"We want to knock on the doors of other churches so they will self-reflect and realise that they should not surrender just because they are a minority," Bona Sigalingging said.

The church is just one of many to have been closed down as part of a wider crackdown on minority faiths in Indonesia.

A law was implemented nine years ago, supposedly with the aim of promoting religious harmony. However, in practice it requires non-Muslims to obtain 60 signatures from people of a different faith as well as permission from the local authority before they can build a place of worship.

If a church is deemed to have illegitimate building permits, it can be torn down. GKI Yasmin has been embroiled in controversy over its permits since 2008.

The situation for Christians is worse in Aceh province in the north of the country, however.

Around 1,000 churches have been closed in Aceh alone since 2006, and Sharia law is implemented. Imams have reportedly ordered the torching of churches, and Christians have been targeted by mob violence.