Indonesian Officials Demolish Church After Refusing to Issue Building Permits

A Christian church in Indonesia was demolished this week- a sign that the country is turning a blind eye to the persecution of religious minorities in the Muslim dominated nation.

Reports from Indonesia indicate that the Taman Sari Batak Christian Protestant Church in the town of Bekasi, outside the bustling city of Jakarta, was torn down in front of congregants who had spent more than a decade worshiping at the site.

"My heart is aching and I feel numb watching my church collapse. I went to this church for 11 years," Megarenta Sihite, 46, told AFP. "Our church can collapse but not our faith. We will continue to come here for Sunday Mass."

Congregants had spent more than 10 years worshiping at the site in a temporary structure and had started construction of the church in spite of repeated attempts to have their building permits approved.

But local officials stated that building the church without the proper permits was the sole reason for the structure being demolished.

While the county's constitution calls for freedom of religion, the Setara Institute of Peace and Democracy contends that incidents of religious persecution have been increasing year after year.

The institute stated that there were 491 cases of religious persecution in 2009, with the number of reports increasing to 543 in 2011.

Indonesia is home to roughly 240 million people, but more than 90 percent of the country identify as Muslim, making it the country with the largest percentage if its population to identify with a single religion.

Christians are not the only religious minorities to experience religious discrimination or persecution, with reports detailing that the country's Muslim Shiite population as well as those following Ahmadiyah have also suffered abused based solely on their religious identity.

"The problem is the government has shown no political will to stop cases of intolerance in the country. It does not demand the law be upheld and that perpetrators are brought to account," Bonar Tigor Naipospos, Setara's deputy director, told AFP.