“We’re not saying the Christians can’t pray. They can, but not here,” said Aseng Sobari, who regularly takes part in the protests.
The Filadelfia church was established in 2000 by a community of Bataks, a mostly Christian ethnic group hailing from northern Sumatra.
Their prayer sessions held in members’ homes were constantly shut down by the district government, prompting the congregation to buy a building, with plans to use it for worship before constructing a complete church in the future.
The congregation has faced opposition since 2007 when they bought land for their place for worship.
Dec. 25 has since become not only a day to mark the birth of Christ, but also a day to remember when their troubles began — the first time they were stopped from entering their church was on Christmas day in 2009.
Prayers have been held on the street ever since.
“My three children often come to the prayer services, and they too have had stones and urine thrown at them. We are tired of this and hope the president and other leaders take action,” church member Binarsen Sinaga said. “Indonesia is supposed to be a free country, but it doesn’t feel that way, especially at Christmas.”