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Indonesian Sunday School Teachers Released

12 June 2007

Dr Rebekka Zakaria, Mrs Ratna Bangun and Mrs Eti Pangesti, three Indonesian women who were jailed after allowing Muslim children to attend their Christian children's club, were released early from their 3 year prison sentence on 8th June 2007.

The three women were jailed in 2005, after the Indonesian Clerics Council accused them under the Child Protection Law. The women had run a children's club called "Happy Week", in which they sang Christian songs, played games and did Bible studies with children. Following the request of a Muslim grandmother to let her grand-daughters attend, the women began allowing Muslim children to come along. All the Muslim parents were aware that the club was run by Christians and involved Christian teaching.

However, after a day-trip was organised by the women, to which parents were also invited, complaints were made about the "Happy Week" club to the police. The women were arrested on May 13th 2005. They were accused of trying to entice the children to convert against their wills.

During the court case witnesses admitted that none of the Muslim children had actually converted to Christianity. Some of the parents were too frightened to be witnesses on behalf of the women, for fear of reprisals from the Muslim community. Angry Muslims attended the trial each day, shouting for the women to be killed. The Muslims also brought a coffin to court and threatened to kill the women if they were found innocent. The judge, who was afraid the crowd would turn violent if he released the women, sentenced them to three years in jail.

Their early release after two years is an answer to prayer, and Rebekka, Ratna and Eti are now reunited with their families. During their time in prison, they did not waste their time but openly witnessed to the other prisoners and the prison staff. It is reported that they "transformed" the prison, cleaning and scrubbing the cells, working in the garden and painting a room for use as a church. Rebekka, who has lost her licence to practise as a doctor due to her criminal record, has publicly forgiven those who brought the charges against her. On her release she said, "This is nothing compared with the suffering and persecution faced by others. Compared with the Lord's love and what He has given me, it is worth it."