The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Monday, July 04, 2005

3 Women Charged of Forced Conversion of Muslim Children in Indonesia

Posted: Friday, June 24 , 2005, 18:24
Christian Today UK

Three women in Indonesia were arrested and charged of attempting to convert Muslim children to Christianity, Compass Direct has reported.

Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangu of Gereja Kristen Kemah Daud (GKKD), of the Christian Church of David's Camp; were imprisoned on 13th May in Indramayu State Prison, where they are now awaiting their trial.

Their story began in 2003, when the elementary school in the area asked the church stuff to provide a Christian education program at their school.

The reason for this resulted from a change in the law, which occurred in June 2003 when the National Education System Bill came into force. The Bill requires providing religious education for children of religious minorities.

Since the school in Babakan Jati had no means of providing Christian education, they asked GKKD church to provide the program.

The told how three women set up a program entitled "Happy Sunday" providing Christian songs, games and Bible studies for children. The program was run by Bangun and Pangesti, and supervised by their Pastor, named Zakaria.

The program was very successful, and attractive not only for Christian children, but later for Muslim children as well. The number of children attending the Happy Sundays reached 40, among them just 10 Christian children.

Muslim children, who attended the program, were doing so with the full consent of their parents. The problems then arose when Islamic elders noticed that some of the children started to sing Christian praises at school and at home.

Elders then forced the church to be closed in December 2004. However, women continued to run the program in Pangesti's home.

On 26th March, they organised an Easter bus tour to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, an amusement park in Jakarta.

During the trip, children were given t-shirt with the church name and a David's star logo, so they could be recognised by teachers. Also, one of the children asked for and was given a Bible.

This development resulted in the Islamic leaders asking the church staff not to allow Muslim children to attend the program. A complaint was also made at the Indramayu District Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) council. In addition, the local MUI chairman, K. H. Muzakir Mahmud, made an official complaint to the Indramayu police.

On 1st May, a local Islamic leader interviewed some of the children and recorded their answers on video. He asked whether they were given money sometimes. Children responded no, however, one of them said that after asking for a Bible, they were given one.

This led to the arrests on 13th May. The three were accused of breaking the Child Protection Law breaching the Child Protection Law, Chapter 86, No. 23/2002. If convicted, they could be sentenced for up to five years and fined 1,000,000,000 rupees (US$103,600).

The pastor and head of the GKKD Synod, Edward Monijong has, as a result, launched a campaign to release the women. He contacted the former president Abdurahman Wahid, more commonly known as Gus Dur as well, since he is known for his policy of tolerance and now chairs the Islamic group Nadhlatul Ulama (NU).

He also wrote an appeal to the Chair of the MUI, Mahmud asking for the women’s release. Mahmud, a member of NU as well, promised to drop the case.

However, the lawyer of MUI H. Erik Isnaeni has refused to drop the case. He also asked for bail to be declined.

As they waited for the trial, legal assistance has been arranged for them, and lawyers are now preparing for the trial.

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