Friday, June 29, 2007

Missional even when persecuted!

Global South Churches are in constant threat of persecution. Pray that we will faithful witnesses to the One who has suffered and died on our behalf, especially when we are chosen to be worthy to suffer for His name sake.

Three Indonesian Sunday School Teachers Released From Prison

The three Indonesian women who have been serving a prison sentence for their Christian beliefs and witness, have been released from Indramayu State Prison, West Java.

by Special Report from Open Doors
Posted: Monday, June 11, 2007, 12:57 (BST)

The three Indonesian women who have been serving a prison sentence for their Christian beliefs and witness, have been released from Indramayu State Prison, West Java.

The three had served two years of a three-year sentence handed out for running a ‘Sunday School’ for local Muslim children.

Dr Rebekka Zakaria, Ratna Bangun and Eti Pangesti were sentenced in 2005, after the court in Indramayu found them guilty to charges brought by the Indonesian Clerics Council of breaching the country’s 2002 Child Protection Law. They were freed on parole at 6am local time and went immediately to be reunited with their families.

Rebbeka told Open Doors, “These [prison] gates are a university of trust.”

She continued, “This is nothing compared with the suffering and persecution faced by others. Compared with the Lord’s love and what He has given me, it is worth it.”

Eddie Lyle, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, said “This is wonderful news. Rebekka, Ratna and Eti were an inspiration to me when I visited them; I was profoundly impressed by their courage and commitment.”

The women of the Christian Church of David's Camp set up a ‘Happy Sunday’ programme, with Christian songs, games and Bible studies for the children, under the direction of pastor Dr Rebekka, in Eti’s home.

After 18 months, the programme was so popular, there were 40 children attending, but only 10 were from Christian homes. The Muslim children attending did so with the full consent of their parents.

However, opposition to the programme resulted in the forced closure of the church building in December 2004 but the three women continued to run the Happy Sunday programme from Eti’s home.

On 13 May 2005, the women were arrested and taken to the police station for questioning. They were accused of breaching the Child Protection Law, Chapter 86, No. 23/2002. Throughout the trial, Islamic extremists made murderous threats to the three mothers from both inside and outside the courtroom. Several bus loads of Islamic militants arrived each day, bringing with them a coffin to bury the ladies if they were found innocent.

Throughout their imprisonment, the ladies have remained powerful witnesses for their Christian faith. They transformed the prison by cleaning washrooms and toilets, scrubbing cells, working on the garden and even painting in bright yellow and blue the walls of the room they used for church meetings.

Within the women’s section, quarrelling was reduced and because of Rebekka, Ratna and Eti’s calming influence the guards overruled prison protocol and allowed each woman to have her own knife and spoon in their cell.

The case of these ladies sparked international concern among the Christian community resulting in a global letter writing campaign and prayer vigils.

Eddie concluded, “Elsewhere in the world, in countries such as North Korea and Eritrea, thousands of Christians remain unjustly imprisoned for their faith. As with any family we experience rights and responsibilities, and our responsibility as the Christian brothers and sisters of those in prison, is to continue serving and encouraging them through our prayers and practical support.”

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