Residents of a housing complex in the North Sumatra capital of Medan stormed a house that had allegedly been used illegally as a church on Sunday, video footage of which has gone viral on social media.
As seen in a viral Instagram post by a member of the church congregation, the residents came to protest the presence of the supposedly unlicensed house of worship.
In the post, the churchgoer wrote that the protesters came as the congregation was about to start their morning prayers, forcing their way inside and demanding that the church be closed down.
“We didn’t do things that were prohibited. We only wanted to pray, but why was our church attacked this morning? Where is justice in this country? Where is religious tolerance? God is with us,” she wrote in the post, adding that she and her churchgoers now feel intimidated to worship in their own country.
Medan Labuhan sub-district Police Chief Rosyid Hartanto confirmed the protest took place, but said it was motivated by a zoning issue.
“The establishment of the church was not in accordance with the rules, because they haven’t obtained a permit for a place of worship,” Rosyid said Sunday, as quoted by Tribun Medan.
Luckily, there were no reports of damage or injuries during the protest.
According to reports, the house had been functioning as a church for the Indonesian Bethel Church congregation for the past two months. Its actual permit status is not entirely clear, as members of the congregation claim that they have obtained some permits for the building to function as a house of worship but are still missing some documents, which they say have been difficult to obtain from government officials, especially during the recent holiday period.
In September, authorities in the East Sumatran city of Jambi sealed three churches, which had been used as places of worship for over a decade, because they lacked official permits. An administrator at one of the churches said they were given no warning prior to the closure and that he suspected the churches were shut due to pressure from certain groups who threatened to protest if they remained open. Officials from one of the church’s said their attempts to obtain the proper permits had proven difficult as government officials always denied them.