Date:  October 25, 2023

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 716 

- Islamists protest Christian school in Parepare, South Sulawesi.
By Elizabeth Kendal

Map of Indonesia, showing location of Parepare, South Sulawesi.
(click on map to enlarge)

On Friday 6 October a large crowd of fundamentalist Muslims took to the streets in Parepare, South Sulawesi, to protest the decision of the district representative council to grant permission for a Christian school. Located 155 km north of the provincial capital, Makassar (the largest city in eastern Indonesia), Parepare is a bustling port city and the second largest city in South Sulawesi. The population of South Sulawesi is predominantly non-Javanese, and while 89 percent are Muslim, a little over nine percent are Christian, predominantly Protestant. The protest comprised numerous Muslim leaders and hundreds of area residents, along with members of the Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI), the Soreang Society Alliance and the banned Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). They marched to the office of the district representative council where they demanded the council withdraw permission to build the Christian school.

The council had given a ‘green light’ to Gamaliel Christian Education Foundation’s application to build Gamaliel Christian School, precisely because it had passed all the legal requirements and obtained all the necessary permits. Reporting on the announcement that construction had been approved, the independent BNN (Breaking News Network) stated (7 Oct): ‘The Gamaliel Christian Education Foundation, under which the Gamaliel Christian School falls, is a renowned institution with a commitment to providing unparalleled educational opportunities… The school, once complete, will provide a space for education and development for countless students… the future looks bright for the students and the community of Parepare. The school…is expected to be a beacon of quality education in the area. As the construction moves forward, all eyes will be on the promising institution that has already marked its commitment to legality and excellence.’

Parepare district representative council receives Muslim demonstrators (6 Oct).
(MSN screenshot from Facebook video)

Morning Star News (MSN, 12 Oct) quotes one Muslim orator who told the protesters: ‘We are the most tolerant people – Muslims need no education on tolerance. We live in a neighbourhood with non-Muslims … but it is intolerance if you build a Christian school in a majority Muslim community.’ As the heat (Muslim anger) rose, the district representative council wilted. The council promised to withdraw the permit on the grounds that it could inflame social tensions. While nothing official has yet been issued, the promise indicates that the once ‘green light’ has now turned red. This is nothing but cowardly appeasement. While Islamists in Java have been protesting and closing down Christian gatherings for decades, the events in Parepare are evidence that Islamisation is spreading across Indonesia, taking hold even in non-Javanese regions.

SURVEY: In May, Catholic media reported on a survey which indicated that intolerant fundamentalist Islam is growing among high school students. The survey was conducted by the advocacy group Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace in association with the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID). It involved nearly 1000 students from private and state-run high schools in five cities across West, East and Central Java plus West Sumatra. The results are shocking: 83.3 percent said Indonesia’s Pancasila (secular ideology) is not a permanent ideology and could be replaced; 56 percent said Indonesia should enact Islamic Sharia Law; 20.2 percent said they ‘would not refrain from committing violence in response to insults to their religion’.

MARRIAGE: In Indonesia, citizens must marry in a religious service. Then the marriage certificate must be certified by a district court before it can be accepted at the civil registry office. With the rising number of interfaith marriages – in particular, Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men (something prohibited in Islam) – liberal courts have long opted to ignore the Indonesian Ulema Council’s 2005 fatwa (religious ruling) forbidding interfaith marriage. In July, in response to pressure from Islamic conservatives, the Supreme Court issued a circular to all district courts instructing them to reject any request to legalise interfaith marriage. The Supreme Court’s intervention closes the door on interfaith marriage. This is not just a problem for Muslim women who want to marry non-Muslim men, it is a catastrophe for women who are Christian converts. Holding Identity Cards that deem them ‘Muslim’, and with apostasy (leaving Islam) being a criminal offence, these convert women are condemned by law to marry a Muslim man. This is the situation in Egypt, and indeed in every state where Sharia forms the basis of the law. That it is now the situation in supposedly secular Indonesia is a sign that Islamisation is well advanced.


  • grant Parepare’s Christian leaders, and those working on behalf of the Gamaliel Christian Education Foundation, great wisdom as they navigate this challenging situation. May the Holy Spirit speak through them, to the district representative council and the wider community, as they make the case for religious freedom, choices in education, and a tolerant, peaceful society. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers…’ (Matthew 5:9a ESV)
  • grace Parepare’s district representative council, police and wider community, with the courage and conviction required to declare and enforce that which is good, right, just and fair. May the police uphold the ban on the Islamic Defender’s Front. May the intimidatory tactics of intolerant Islamists be widely rejected; may intolerant Islamists find little to no support among South Sulawesi’s non-Javanese Muslim majority: may they remember ‘this is not our way!’ – for the sake of the Church in South Sulawesi.
  • continue to build his Church in Indonesia, from Aceh in the west through to Papua in the east, may the Lord’s name be praised! ‘From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!’ (from Psalm 113)

NOTE: Parepare is pronounced Paré-paré