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Indonesian Evangelist Imprisoned for 'Defaming Islam'

An Indonesian evangelist, imprisoned for over 50 days, awaits trial at the Tasikmalaya provincial court, reported the world’s longest-running persecution monitor group.
( [email protected] ) May 03, 2006 09:15 PM EDT

An Indonesian evangelist, imprisoned for over 50 days, awaits trial at the Tasikmalaya provincial court, reported the world’s longest-running persecution monitor group.

Abe (not his real name) was imprisoned shortly after he was besieged by a large mob of Islamic militants near his home, Mar. 18, according to the Open Doors email alert issued Wednesday evening.

Abe reported to Open Doors that the mob dragged him out of his home and beat him, causing injury to his head and ears. He received reprieve when police broke up the crowd and placed him in a detention cell to be "protected from those who wanted to harm him."

The 55-year-old evangelist was later transferred to a local prison, where prosecutors initially charged him with "doing a displeasing act."

Lately, though, the authorities have accused Abe of defaming Islam, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Born into a strong-Muslim family, Abe had relatives from his father’s side whom were respected clerics. Prior to his arrest, Abe had worked at the Indonesian Pentecostal church, Gereja Sidang Jemaat Pentakosta (GSJP).

Abe, a former Muslim, said that he was visited often by representatives of the Indonesian Council of Clerics (MUI), whom forced him to recite the Shahadat – the Islamic faith declaration.

He, nonetheless, refused to renounce his faith when the MUI promised him freedom, if he returned to Islam, according to the Open Doors report.

"I accepted Christ as my Savior in 1998 after a pastor came to me and miraculously healed my stroke," Abe said. "Since then, I dedicated my life to following Jesus by being an evangelist in my hometown. I won’t leave Jesus now."

According to Pastor Andreas, who has been taking care of Abe, the mob-incident may have been a well-planned ruse to imprison him. Several media reporters and cameramen had already been in place, take shots of the mob before the beating occurred, said the pastor of the Indonesian Bethel Church.

While in prison, Abe continues to suffer from conditions caused by his stroke, which impaired his right arm.

Since his arrest, Abe has been unable to see his wife and daughter whom reside in Central Java, and are too poor to travel to his prison.

"I’m just a housewife and don’t have any income. So when I learned that my husband was arrested, I was devastated," Abe’s wife said tearfully.

"The church has been kind enough to support some of my daily needs. But I realize this can’t last forever."