Aceh: three “illegal” churches torn down, more to come
Seven additional religious buildings are slated for demolition in Singkil. The police used clubs and hammers to tear down the wooded constructions. The army was deployed to prevent clashes. The demolition was decided on 10 October in the presence of Christians and Muslims. On 13 October, Islamists attacked the churches and torched one, causing an exodus of Christians.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The authorities in Singkil, Aceh province, began to tear down ten churches deemed “illegal” because they did not have the appropriate building permit (Ind. Izin Mendirikan Bangunan).

Islamic extremist groups had been pressing for their destruction, and took matters in their own hand on 13 October when they attacked two churches, torching one. This prompted an exodus of hundreds of Christian families, fleeing sectarian clashes.

For now, tensions in the only Indonesian province that enforces Islamic law (Sharia) remain high. The authorities have deployed the army around the sites to be demolished to prevent further violence.

The police used clubs and hammers to tear down the small wooden "provisional churches" (undung-undung) as members of the Protestant congregations looked on.

Three religious buildings have already been destroyed in the village of Siompin. Seven more will be demolished in the coming days.

The demolitions were decided on 10 October, after the authorities met with Muslim and Christian community leaders.

Local Muslims complain that Christians built a number of churches in excess to what was agreed in 1979 (reiterated in 2001).

Paima Brutu, guardian of one of the demolished churches, blames the government for the lack of permits.

"We applied for permission to build a thousand times,” he explained. “At this point, we want to know whether the government will ever allow us to have it."