Archbishop Gary Beaver Urges Immediate Release of Christian Sunday School Teachers

From: Old Catholic Church
Published: Fri Sep 30 2005

The Most Reverend Archbishop Gary Beaver led the Old Catholic Church and the Free Catholic Church of Europe Communion with an official plea for the immediate release of Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun. Both women are currently serving a three year prison sentence in the Indramayu district of West Java, having been found guilty and ludicrously convicted of "attempting to coerce children to change their religion" under the Indonesian "Child Protection Act."

The facts of the matter were that Rebekka, Eti, and Ratna allowed Muslim children to attend their Sunday school program only after obtaining verbal consent from the Muslim students' guardians. The three women ran a popular Sunday school program which was attended by approximately 100 Christian students in their community. A local Islamic group brought charges against the three for violating the "Child Protection Act."

"My first reaction," said Rebekka of the conviction, "I cry."
Rebekka is a medical doctor who treated approximately 30 to 40 Muslim and Christian patients per day in her clinic in Indramayu. In a cramped, filthy prison holding 437inmates, only 16 of the inmates are women. There are eight women to a 16ft by 15ft cell. They sleep all together on top of a hard, wood platform. Blankets and sheets are not permitted.

"We have to pay money to the guards to turn the water on for the toilet in our cell," said Rebekka. "I wake up at 5 a.m. everyday to pray and read my Bible till 7:30. At 8am they open the cell doors," said Rebekka. The 16 women then share a 30ft by 30ft room where there is only one chair until 4 p.m. when they must return to their squalid cells. In the day room, they are fed an egg-sized lump of rice and soybean mixture covered in ants three times a day.

"We eat breakfast, lunch, dinner in that room on the floor. No dining room. We get a small portion of lamb once a week," said Rebekka.

Incredibly, Rebekka is currently allowed to lead a worship service on Sundays in a small outdoor yard area of the prison, where some 35 people from her church are allowed to enter the prison each Sunday to participate.
One male inmate recently converted to Christianity and attends the worship service, bringing the Christian inmate population to seven.

"This is 'School of Trust Bible School.' Not a jail," said Rebekka.
"Sometimes I am depressed, but not for long. God comforts me everyday with joy and peace. I pray for the other prisoners and guards. One prisoner converted and became a Christian. We share our faith with others," said Rebekka.

"We have been here 140 days. I want to do God's will. I hope to be released soon," said Rebekka.

Rebekka said, "I am not angry at the people who brought the charges against me. I forgive them. I bless them."

Etta has three children and said, "I had a dream of going home. I am depressed sometimes. I am not angry about being here. My accusers didn't understand."
Ratna, with children eight and two said with tears in her eyes, "I miss my children so much."

Rebekka made it clear that, "I want people to know about our situation. I want prayer support. I was surprised so happily that Christians in other countries were so interested in our case. Please pray for us."
Archbishop Gary Beaver is urging the Indonesian government to release the three women. The Old Catholic Church of Great Britain with all churches of the global Communion of the Free Catholic Church of Europe are also urging European governments to place all possible pressure on Indonesia for their immediate release.

According to Archbishop Gary Beaver, "under the Children Protection Act and other regulations, Christians may be lawfully persecuted in Indonesia. This case is a definite wakeup call for all caring Christians globally."
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world.
For information on how to write to Rebekka, Eti, and Ratna, or help them with financial support please contact The Old Catholic Church of Great Britain by emailing .

Rebekka warned, "Please don't send the letters here to the prison. If we want to open the letters people send us we must pay 10,000 Rupiah to the guards for small bundle. Please give the letters to the pastor and he will give them to me for free."

Company: Old Catholic Church
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