Mobs of Islamist militants are reported to have stopped Christians from worshipping in two cities on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.
The hardliners are believed to have disrupted Christians as they worshipped in a café in a village in Binjai, 13 miles from Medan, capital of North Sumatra Province, last month. In Riau, capital of Pekanbaru Province in southern Sumatra, a mob reportedly stopped Bethel Indonesia Church’s (Gereja Bethel Indonesia or GBI) worship service. Morning Star News (MSN) reported that in the North Sumatra attack, at least 40 militants stopped the midday worship service at the café in Binjai where the Mawar Sharon congregation met, according to Binjai-based MetroLangkatBinjai.com. In Riau, a video appearing on social media shows ‘outsiders’ keeping the GBI church from worship. Rev Henrek Lokra, executive secretary of the justice and peace bureau of the Communion of Christian Churches (Persatuan Gereja Indonesia or PGI) told MSN that PGI is investigating the cases. Andreas A. Yewangoe, former chairman of PGI, condemned the incidents. ‘It’s absolutely regrettable that this [kind of] case is happening again,’ Yewangoe told MSN. ‘The attackers paid no heed to our President’s address that the constitution is higher than anything else, including “agreements” among the relevant officials, which always put the weak minorities in a corner.’ Indonesian President Joko Widodo in a January address to regional leaders told them not to let local agreements supersede constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. Iranian’s prison term reduced Iranian Christians are encouraged that the Tehran Court of Appeal has reduced the 10-year prison sentence against Armenian-Iranian Joseph Shahbazian for ‘acting against national security through promoting Zionist Christianity’ to two years’ imprisonment, but regret that the court failed to acquit him. Joseph was among nearly 40 arrested as part of a co-ordinated raid by Iranian intelligence agents on house churches in Tehran, Karaj and Malayer in 2020. In June 2022 Joseph was sentenced to 10 years in prison. An Appeal Court upheld the decision in August 2022, after which Joseph was summoned to Evin Prison to begin serving the sentence. Later, the Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate inconclusively that Joseph had led a house church. A retrial took place at the Appeal Court on May 24, this year. The Appeal Court upheld the conviction but reduced the prison sentence and withdrew a supplementary sentence of two years in internal exile. Last Mayflower family reaches US The last family of five from China’s Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church (also known as the Mayflower Church) arrived safely in the US ten days ago. The mother had been unable to board the plane to the US with other members of the church in April and was stranded in Thailand. PRAISE AND PRAYER
Pray that Christians in Indonesia will be able to worship free of interference and that the incidents in Sumatra will only serve to strengthen the church
Thank God for the reduction in the sentence of Joseph Shahbazian but pray that he will not have to serve the remaining two years in prison
Praise God that the last Mayflower Church family has made it safely to the US.
(Sources: ChinaAid, Middle East Concern, Morning Star News)