Christians in Aceh have to pray in the forest
A year ago six churches in Aceh province of Indonesia were destroyed by mobs at the behest of Islamic extremists. Mobs incited by hardline preachers demanded all unregistered churches be destroyed and attacked several, burning them to the ground. Eleven churches in total were destroyed last year, some by angry mobs and some by police who maintained the churches were unregistered and therefore had to be demolished.
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia to enforce Sharia law. Non-Muslims have to obtain 60 signatures from persons of another faith and receive a permit from the authorities in order to build a place of worship.
Christians claim the destroyed churches have not been rebuilt because of the hatred and discrimination against them. They fear the authorities will not issue permits for building churches to avoid upsetting Islamists and jeopardising their positions in the upcoming elections in Aceh province next February..
Yet local Christians remain undeterred and continue to meet and pray secretly in forests. One Christian whose church was burnt down said “The perpetrators live in the neighborhood and they always watch my church members’ activities.”