Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti & Ratna Bangun have completed sixteen months of their three-year prison sentence for running a Christian kindergarten in which some Muslim children attended.
The three women were jailed for, according to the charges, attempting to convert Muslim children to Christianity while they worked as teachers at a kindergarten in Haurgeulis, Indramayu, West Java, in which some Muslim parents decided, of their own free will, to send their children to. The local branch of the MUI, the Indonesian Council of Muslim Clerics, and not any of the parents, accused the women of enticing the children to convert by giving them presents. No evidence of this was given in court and no children had become Christians.
Ratna Bangun, Eti Pangesti & Rebekka Zakaria.
The women, whose names are sometimes spelled as Dr. Rebecca Laonita, Mrs Ratna Mala Bangun and Mrs Ety Pangesti, are domiciled in a prison in Indramayu in which are 12 women and 400 men. They get along fine with their co-inmates, and with the warders, and are resigned to serving out their terms.
An ugly scene from their trial.
Ratna, at 33, is the youngest of the trio and has two children, one of whom is aged only three years. Her oldest, Joshua, found it hard to accept her imprisonment but she says he is now "strong". Her husband, Sembiring, often works away from home so her children are cared for by a female relative in Sumatra. Because of the distance Ratna has only seen her children twice since going to jail.
Ratna says that she was originally very afraid of what her father's reaction to news of her jailing would be, that he might have a heart attack or something similar. But it turns out he reacted with fortitude and some pride, and is reported to have given this message:
I'm proud of my daughter, proud of the suffering she has to go through for Christ. So be firm, keep doing God's will, keep spreading the gospel of the love of Christ, without fear. And now I will go about the village [in Sumatra] and tell everyone that my child is in prison and that I am proud of her.
Meanwhile Eti, 44, says that one of her three children, a 7 year old son, is very ashamed of his mother's situation because other children taunt him about it. Eti is married to Sutrisno and her two other children are aged twenty and fourteen.
With cellmate, Tati.
Rebekka, 48 years old, has two university-attending children, as well as an adopted daughter, Linda. This last is reported to travel over 100 km's per day by motorbike, with her own young daughter riding along, to bring food to the prison for the women. The prison food is said to be of very poor quality.
Rebekka is a medical doctor and she is said to help inmates with their health problems.
Since their time in prison the women have received about 15,000 letters or cards of sympathy and support from around the world and their ongoing legal expenses are handled by the UK branch of a group called "Open Doors", a Christian charity.
A couple of videos of scenes outside the courthouse.
A US television feature on the three women:
June 08th. The three women were released today after serving almost two years of a three-year sentence. They are required to report to the Cirebon prison superintendent once a month until February 2008, a condition of their early release. 
February 28th 2008. An interview with Rebekka at compassdirect.org.
Yet another example of how justice works in Indonesia.
The judges have no conscience – what a shame.
May God Jesus protect them. We have to work hard to make our next generation live in a much better situation. Viva Indonesia
The room looks more like a highschool classroom w/o a teacher than a courtroom.
May God bless and help the defendants — and forgive everyone else.
A scandalous misuse of power and authority to imprison these women. Are the presumably Muslim judges so scared of the weakness of others beliefs that they have to act this way? Where is the plurality of this country now? It makes me ashamed of our justice system and my so called fellow Muslims who allow this sort of thing to happen.
The biggest irony of this situation is that the parents were probably sending their children to a school which could provide them with the best education, obviously something the judges in this case missed out on.
Why not emprisoning all the Muslims who try to convert to Islam their future husband or wife to get legally married. If proselytism is forbidden that should also be the case for Muslims, not only Christians.
As usual Muslims of all rights of others just have the right to shut up in this country.
I wonder when minorities will start to say “that’s enough..”.
Damn, Indo law sucks man, really dunno what to say.
Makes me sick. I’m so sorry for all the judges, lawyers, & complainants! Strong people : women again!
I have not suffer like them. My salute to you ladies.
3 little giants among liliput.
So many paranoid people in Indonesia, so sad…
Look at the second pic, those men behind the police have such tiny wee-wee. Those men were afraid of these 3 giant women.
I must say, these women have started a big step in the evangelistic world. Bravo.
“in which some Muslim parents decided, of their own free will, to send their children to”
“MUI, the Indonesian Council of Muslim Clerics, and not any of the parents, accused the women of enticing the children to convert by giving them presents. No evidence of this was given in court and no children had become Christians”
I think this part should be emphasized, gee, what kind of country is this?
MISS INDO 07 asked
what kind of country is this?
It’s certainly not one where the Judiciary are Free, Fair, and Impartial is it? We cannot even say that we meet the first principle of Judicial Independence.
I am Australian so I am hesitant to make a comment, normally I consider the laws of Indonesia to be quite good where justice is reached, however this case is an unfortunate suprise. I believe education should be independant of faith (of if shared, then fair learning for all religions buddhism, Catholic and Hindu and Islam) , it goes to show that some faiths are full of weakness and fear. I believe Islam should be agood religion so its probabally the fear and insecurity of judges and politicians in this case.
These people should be ferried off to the gulf countries to help their Arab brothers.
April 29, over 1 million young Turks protested and demanded the resignation of the pro-Islamic government, and saying NO to sharia law!
They were waving flags and singing. Heck, no burnt cars, no bombs, no lootings and no arrests. What the hell they were doing? Don’t they know islamic way to get message across is to arm and kill, burn and pillage. Oh, darn, they are not real moslems.
We really should be arranging our jihad protest group to teach them how to get messages across. Otherwise, Islam di kalahkan in Turkey.
These three females are just housewives who love Christ. It’s clearly stated that they do not force any of the children to attend the “Sunday School” and that none of the children converted to Christian. This is one of many examples of unjust Christian prosecutions in Indonesia. My symphathy goes to the Rebekka, Eti and Ratna. They have set an example of housewives who also can be the warrior of their faith!
It moves me to tears each time I think of these three dear brave ladies persecuted and bullied by wicked men.
Praise God that our prayers are answered and they are now released.
It has always been so that Gods people suffer for their faith and makes us cry out for justice and retribution against against the persecutors.
We must be patient. The fury of the wrath of God will be released against these evil and misguided men.
Hi I saw your story in CRC and it encouredged me and I think you lady’s are awsome. You wil reach many more people cause I just want to share you story with people.
Children are innocent. Whether they are sent to christian or muslim kindergaten. all they want to have fun, to be loved and learn. Well done ladies for showing the othe world that you care about children. You did not discriminate beacause they were moslim kids. My salute to you.