Date: March 15, 2023
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 685
EGYPT: critical adoption case in court, Saturday 18 March; please pray.
For Background see RLPB 682 (1 March).
RAMADAN: 18 March to 18 April 2023.
INDONESIA: CHRISTIAN APOLOGISTS JAILED
by Elizabeth Kendal
Gratia Pello (40) – a member of Indonesia’s small Coptic Orthodox community – teaches theology in the Nusantara Bible School, a small Christian college in Malang, East Java, some 93km south of the regional capital, Surabaya. With a wealth of knowledge on Christian theology, eastern Christianity, Arabic language, Islam and the Arab world, Gratia Pello (also known as GP) had become known for his highly effective and growing apologetic ministry. In 2013 he established a YouTube channel – Inyo Manis – which now has 383 videos uploaded and 51,000 subscribers. In these videos Pello can been seen engaging in Muslim-Christian debates, critiquing Islam, answering questions, defending Christianity, promoting the Bible and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Theologian and apologist, Gratia Pello
(screenshot from YouTube)
A controversy erupted in February 2022 after Pello alluded to Muhammed’s coveting of and subsequent marriage to Zainab (his daughter-in-law). Muslims were furious and Pello received much hate mail, some of which slandered the Bible and even denigrated Jesus as ‘unclean’ and illegitimate. In response, Pello produced Episode GP248 in which he compared Islam and the Bible – specifically, how the Quran legitimises Muhammad’s act [Allah said he could have her; Sura 33:36-43], while the Bible always condemns sexual impropriety as sin requiring repentance. Now the Muslims were even more furious; none more so than Hanny Kristianto, a Muslim convert from Christianity and member of the Indonesia Mualaf Center (MCI). [A mualaf is someone who officially converts to Islam.] The group had reportedly tried to take legal action against Pello in the past, but without success [English translation of German-language website]. This time however, thanks to a high-level contact inside East Java Regional Police Headquarters, they would finally have the success they craved.
At 10:30 am, on 6 December 2022, police showed up at Pello’s home demanding to question him on the content of Episode GP248. They questioned him and left, only to return around four hours later with summons demanding that Pello present himself to police headquarters for further questioning on 9 December. However, at 8:30pm that same day (6 Dec) a team of 29 police officers stormed Pello’s home. Pello and his wife, Rosa Christina, were not home as they had gone out for dinner. Without a warrant, the officers proceeded to search and ransack the house. When the couple returned home at 11pm, Pello was arrested and taken to East Java Regional Police Headquarters, where he was charged with blasphemy and imprisoned. The charge was approved on 9 January. Nothing has been heard of Gratia Pello since his arrest; no trial date has been set. The deathly silence covering this case is both lamentable and indicative of the fear that grips politicians, journalists and religious leaders whenever Islamic fundamentalists are involved. Violence works! No-one wants to be the target of Islamic fundamentalist wrath.
Meanwhile, in Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatra, a young Christian named Rudi Simamora has been sentenced to one year in prison for committing blasphemy on his YouTube channel. According to Tribun-Medan, Simamora [English translation from Indonesian-language website] – alias Anak Batak (Batak child) – used his channel to question the history of Muslim beliefs and compare Islam with Christianity. Little information is available, but it seems Simamora was arrested on 6 November 2022, and sentenced in the Medan District Court on 23 February after the judge ruled that Simamora had violated a provision in the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, specifically Article 28(2), which prohibits knowingly spreading ‘hate speech’. Violations carry a maximum prison term of 10 years. Simamora’s sentence was lenient because he confessed to his ‘crime’, expressed remorse and ‘explained’ he was only doing it for the money! (Tribun-Medan) [English translation of Indonesian-language website]. The family is also expressing remorse in the hope of pacifying the Islamist community.
PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR GOD WILL INTERVENE:
- for Gratia Pello, to ensure his safety and well-being; and to ensure he has access to the very best lawyers, and regular contact with his family and ministry colleagues. Lord have mercy.
- for blasphemy prisoner Muhammad Kece [RLPB 619 (13 Oct 2021)]. A convert from Islam, now Christian apologist, Kece was arrested in August 2021 and subsequently sentenced to 10 years in jail (reduced on appeal to six years). Kece’s health is frail. May God intervene to ensure Kece’s safety and well-being; may he receive all the medical and spiritual care he needs to endure this trial; may his release come early. Lord have mercy.
‘Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body’ (Hebrews 13:3 ESV).
- for Rudi Simamora and all Indonesia’s blasphemy prisoners, many of whom belong to religious minorities or movements advocating liberty and reform; may the Lord redeem their suffering.
- to save Indonesia from its descent into intolerant Islamic fundamentalism; may the Lord raise up voices for liberty – especially in the Church; may fear and reluctance be replaced with courage and conviction; may defeatism and hopelessness be replaced with energised faith and hope for the future. Indonesia belongs to the Lord!
‘He [God’s Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ] will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coast-lands wait for his law’ (Isaiah 42:4 ESV).