Jon Afrizal, Jambi – A citizen of the United States and an Indonesian national have been arrested by the Telanaipura Police in Jambi for allegedly spreading the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Simpang Empat Sipin subdistrict of Jambi city.
"The arrest was made based on reports from residents who were concerned by the individuals' activities in the neighborhood," Telanaipura Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Yumika Putra said on Wednesday.
Both the US and the Indonesian citizens, identified only by the initials J and L, respectively, were currently detained and being questioned regarding their religious activities, he said. The Jambi Police had also assisted in making sure whether the detainees had actually violated any existing laws, he added.
During the preliminary questioning, J admitted to having lived in Jambi city for three years. The police had cooperated with the Jambi Immigration Office to look into J's stay permit.
Waluyo, a local, said the J and L had given out pamphlets, brochures and books on the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses from door to door in the neighborhood. They also recommended residents visit the official website of the Jehovah's Witnesses at jw.org.
"Of course we grew concerned. This is a Muslim-majority neighborhood. What if there's a conflict with local residents?" Waluyo said to The Jakarta Post.
Residents of Kasang Pudak village in Muarojambi regency of Jambi had had similar visitors purportedly spreading the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses in February last year, when two Koreans, accompanied by an Indonesian, reportedly handed out reading materials about the faith in the predominantly Muslim neighborhood.
The authorities received reports from locals about the activities and proceeded to question them. However, the two foreigners could not show their citizenship documents and later escaped.
Following the incident, a local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses had reportedly made a pact with residents of Kasang Pudak village to submit reports of their activities to village officials in an effort to maintain order and religious harmony in the area.
In the past, Jehovah's Witnesses – a minority religious group in the country – was banned in Indonesia under Attorney General Decree No. 129/1976 because of a series of legal violations the congregations had been accused of committing over the years, such as their refusal to salute the national flag.
However, the decree was revoked in 2001 following the issuance of, among others, People's Consultative Assembly Decree No. 17/1998 on human rights. (rfa)