Protestant pastor and four Christians arrested in West Aceh
The religious police in charge of enforcing Islamic rules and customs alleged that the five were trying to convert Muslims in the area of Aceh to Christianity.
The Sharia Police and security officials in West Aceh district last week arrested Pastor Hendri Budi Kusumo and four other members of the Indonesian Mission Evangelist Church on charges of proselytising.
Local media reported that Kusumo and others were taken from their home in the village of Blang Puloat night. Two other people in the company of Christians also were detained. They were later identified as ‘Muslims from the Aceh area’.
The religious police in charge of enforcing Islamic rules and customs alleged that the five were trying to convert Muslims in the area of Aceh to Christianity. Aceh is Indonesia’s only province where Islamic law is in force.
Baron Ferryson, the chief officer at the Aceh office of the Committee for Religious Affairs, confirmed the arrest and said that they were taken after rumours of proselytization had spread.
But even the head of the Committee for Religious Affairs was not sure of the allegations. Pastor Kusumo provided educational and remedial courses to the locals in his efforts to improve the level of education.
This incident is very similar to the arrest of another Protestant pastor and three other workers in Bireuen district of Aceh in June.
A newly baptized, identified as Hasbi in the local language, returned to his native village and attempted to convert his brother Aman Suhardi to Christianity. The authorities held Pastor Onekesyi Zega responsible and arrested him while he was at the village of Bener Meriah with three assistants and carrying copies of the Bible in the local language, which were used as ‘evidence’ by the cops.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. While the constitution guarantees religious freedom, it has been witnessing attacks and violence against religious minorities – Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or of other faiths.
In provinces other than Aceh, the influence of the Muslim religion in the lives of citizens has become radical and extreme. Certain rules such as building permits are often used to prevent construction or to close down Christian places of worship.