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Sunday schools at risk in Indonesia


15 November 2018

Christians in Indonesia are opposing a new religious education bill that will require them to obtain government approval for holding Sunday schools classes.

If the ‘Islamic boarding schools and religious education’ bill passes, every Sunday school will be required to have at least 15 participants and the organiser must have the approval of the Religious Affairs Ministry.

More than two hundred thousand Christians have signed an online petition to Indonesian President Jokowi and the House of Representative, in protest of the bill.

Many are worried that the bill will be used by extremists to curtail the religious freedom of Christians. This concern follows the ‘Joint Ministers Decree’ that regulates church membership which has been widely used by Islamic extremist groups and the government to stop Christians from building places of worship. It has also resulted in extensive stealing, burning and attacking of churches in Indonesia.

The draft ‘Islamic boarding schools and religious education’ bill aims to regulate how schools, and also religious institutions teach religion and government involvement in financing and supporting religious education.

The Indonesian Communion Church (PGI), said that that Sunday school is vital and must not be equated with other informal religious education such as the Islamic Pesantren (Islamic boarding schools). They also pointed out that Sunday school should not require permission as religious freedom is already guaranteed in the Indonesian Constitution (Article 29).

Church leaders have emphasised that Sunday school is an extension of church services and are informal activities.

The House of Representatives has promised to hold hearings to ensure that religious freedom is upheld.

Indonesia is number 38 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Islamic pressure groups and conservative Muslim political parties are pushing for an Islamic nation, posing significant danger to Christians and other religious minorities.On a more local level, radical Islamic leaders are able to mobilise hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on the streets in mass protests against Christians. Churches who are seen to be converting Muslims face opposition from extremist Islamic groups. Many converts from Islam experience isolation and verbal abuse because of their faith.

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