Aceh Mob Targets Another Storefront Church
Nurdin Hasan & Ezra Sihite
A mob of about 300 men vandalized a store that was being used for a church service by dozens of Bethel Christians in Aceh on Sunday.
There were no casualties reported in the attack.
The mob wrecked the first floor of the store located in the Pasar Peunayong village of the Kuta Alam subdistrict in Banda Aceh. The assailants broke windows and did damage to some furniture.
Around 60 local Bethel Christians were holding their Sunday service on the third floor when the mob attacked.
The police’s quick response prevented the attackers from reaching the people on the third floor.
Banda Aceh Police chief Muffan Mudji Kafanti claimed that the attackers ransacked the place because the church members had not obtained permission to hold Mass in the store.
“There are regulations if you want to make it a place of worship,” Muffan said. “Local residents couldn’t accept it and wrecked it.”
Police have not made any arrests and say the matter is still being investigated. However, 12 of the Christians were taken to the police station for questioning.
Kuta Alam subdistrict head Diwarsyah said the store was previously used for private courses for students.
Diwarsyah said members of the church told him that they were going to use the store for private courses.
Peunayong village chief Syarifuddin said he was told by the group that the building was going to be used for prayers, but nothing was in writing.
Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said last week that he was disheartened by “rumored” demands to close 20 churches in Aceh.
Last month, 16 storefront churches were shut down in the Aceh Singkil district amid demands from local Muslim groups.