Police Arrest Christian Apologist in Indonesia

Professor compared Christianity and Islam on social media.

Christian apologist Gratia Pello has not been seen since his arrest on Dec. 6, 2022. (Morning Star News screenshot from YouTube)

Christian apologist Gratia Pello has not been seen since his arrest on Dec. 6, 2022. (Morning Star News screenshot from YouTube)

SURABAYA, Indonesia (Morning Star News) – A Christian apologist whose comparisons of Christianity with Islam were widely disseminated on his blog and YouTube channel has disappeared since his arrest in December, sources said.

Nothing has been heard from Gratia Pello, a professor at a small Christian theological school in East Java Province, since a crowd of police officers ransacked his house in Malang and arrested him on Dec. 6, according to online news outlet Sintesa.

The apologist, reportedly a Coptic Orthodox Christian known for debates with Muslim converts from Christianity, was subsequently transferred to Surabaya for interrogation, according to Sintesa. He is known for his widely followed Inyo Manis YouTube channel and his books on apologetics and Islamic and Christian doctrines. His knowledge of Arabic has enabled him to make significant use of Islamic resources.

Prior to his arrest, four police officers visited Gratia Pello’s house at about 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 6 to question him about the content of episode 248 of his YouTube channel, which officers said had offended Muslims and Islam, according to Sintesa’s Dec. 13 report.

The video, which first appeared on Feb. 23, 2022, described how Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, visited the house of his adopted son, Zayd ibn Harithah, and Harithah’s wife, Zaynab bint Jahsh, who later became one of Muhammad’s wives.

Finding no mistakes and no other elements that violated Islam doctrines, the officers then left the house, only to return four or five hours later, according to Sintesa. They delivered a summons for Gratia Pello to go to police headquarters on Dec. 9 at 9 a.m. for further questioning, but at 8:30 p.m. on the same day, Dec. 6, a team of 29 police officers stormed the house.

Gratia Pello and his wife happened to have left the house to buy dinner, and with only his mother-in-law and youngest son at home, the officers with neither an arrest warrant nor a search warrant proceeded to ransack the house.

They arrested the apologist upon his return at 11 p.m. and later took him to East Java Regional Police Headquarter in Surabaya, about 110 kilometers (70 miles) away, for further interrogation. He is still presumably waiting for trial.

A Muslim convert from Christianity, Hanny Kristianto of the Indonesia Mualaf Center (MCI), reportedly said that Gratia Pello had made a video challenging Muslims to report him to the police.

“He even made a video, like challenging Muslims to arrest him, and he will be responsible for his statement on Islam,” Hanny Kristianto said in the video on social media. The Muslim apologist, whose original name means “The Son of Christ,” said in the video that he and others had been searching for Gratia Pello for nine months.

“I went to Malang, visiting the Nusantara Bible School (Sekolah Alkitab Nusantara) and his address in Surabaya [where his parents live], but he was not there,” Hanny Kristianto said. “Gratia Pello seems to act with impunity, and we were pessimistic when the head of East Java Regional Headquarter was Mr. Niko Avinta, a Christian. But the police should not be impartial, never take the side with any religion.”

Since the arrest, Hanny Kristianto has said that one of his friends is a close relative of a high-ranking police officer at the East Java Regional Headquarters, which enabled the Muslim convert and others to submit their complaint to police on Gratia Pello’s video.

A Makasar, South Celebes-based Muslim apologist and host of IbnuKalam, a YouTube channel, said he believes mualafs (Muslim converts from Christianity) upset with Gratia Pello are happy with his current suffering. The host of another YouTube channel, edy youtube, likewise said that he and his fellow Muslim converts from Christianity were happy about the likelihood of Gratia Pello spending many years in jail.

A Christian priest from Central Java who spoke on anonymity said that he regretted the arrest of Gratia Pello.

“The police always put the arrest of Christians on their priority list, but they are silent when it comes to the many fake clergymen and ustadz [Muslim “teacher” in Arabic] who insult Christian holy books even if the case has been reported,” he told Morning Star News. “There is injustice in terms of law, and particularly in the matters of religion. The police are afraid of radicals.”

Two leading figures of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) had no comment on the case.

Indonesia ranked 33rd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Indonesian society has adopted a more conservative Islamic character, and churches involved in evangelistic outreach are at risk of being targeted by Islamic extremist groups, according to Open Doors’ WWL report.

“If a church is seen to be preaching and spreading the gospel, they soon run into opposition from Islamic extremist groups, especially in rural areas,” the report noted. “In some regions of Indonesia, non-traditional churches struggle to get permission for church buildings, with the authorities often ignoring their paperwork.”

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