Indonesian Christians flee after arson attack on a church in Aceh

Up to 8,000 Christians – Protestants and Catholics – in Indonesia’s Aceh province have fled their homes following an arson attack on a Christian church.

Violent clashes broke out when a group of Islamic fundamentalists attempted to burn down a second church in Aceh Singkil district, leading to one person being killed and dozens being injured, according to local police who have arrested about 20 suspects.

Several hundred people fled for protection to St Michael’s parish in the nearby North Sumatra province. 

Capuchin Fr Alfons Pandiangan said the conflict had been triggered by radical elements operating in the province, as “there is no problem with our relations with Muslims at the grassroots level”.

“We want the government to correct the rules and policies that threaten the harmony that is already maintained at the grassroots level,” he said.

Pakpak Dairi Protestant Church’s Rev. Erde Brutu, who was on site when the violence broke out, said the congregation resorted to violence to save their church, which was attacked following demands for illegal churches to be permanently closed.


According to a controversial 2006 law, churches cannot be built without officials first providing authorities with a list of names and signatures of 90 congregation members along with written support from at least 60 local residents and a village chief. 

Churches have been shut since 2006, but Rev. Brutu says most churches in the region long predate the legislation.