Protestant seminarian charged with rape in Indonesia

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

September 5, 2022

By Katharina Reny Lestari

The suspect allegedly committed the crimes against six minor students of a Sunday School between March 2021 and this year

A Protestant seminarian in Indonesia’s Catholic-majority province of East Nusa Tenggara has been arrested following complaints of raping six girls aged between 15-16.

Police arrested the 36-year-old seminarian in the provincial capital of Kupang during the weekend and named him a suspect in the rape case, a police official said. His name was not disclosed.

Yames Jems Mbau, an official with the Criminal Investigation Unit told UCA News on Sept. 5 that the seminarian was arrested following complaints from the victims’ families.

He said the suspect repeated the crime several times between May 2021 and March this year in the complex of the Evangelical Church in Timor (GMIT) located in Waisika village.The suspect was serving as an assistant minister at the church. 

Mbau also said the suspect videotaped the crime and used it to blackmail the victims, all Sunday School students.

The suspect faces the death penalty if found guilty, he said.

“We denounce the crime. Based on the information we received, there are more than six victims,” said Kalfin Romelus Karbeka, head of the Kalabahi chapter of the Indonesian Protestant University Students Movement, told UCA News.

“What he did is cruel. It destroys the future of the victims, who are still junior and senior high school students. They surely experience long-lasting psychological harm.”

He said his group will work together with some other groups to provide the victims with a trauma healing program. 

“We will do our best to help the victims,” he said.

The Synod Assembly of GMIT has issued a statement on its website to announce that the ordination of the seminarian has been postponed “because we pay attention to the protection of the victims and their psychological harm.”

“We have sent two psychologists and a legal assistant from the GMIT’s Home for Hope to provide the victims with a trauma healing program,” the statement reads.

“We also call on local police to conduct a thorough investigation into the case and to make sure that the legal process is fair enough,” it added.

Meanwhile, Azas Tigor Nainggolan, a Catholic lawyer who deals with cases of sexual violence against children, said the lack of a monitoring system contributed to such cases.

“A monitoring system must be built by each religious institution,” he said.

He agreed that the suspect must be handed an exemplary harsh sentence. 

“Even chemical castration can be added,” he asserted.

This is, however, not the first case of sexual violence against minors involving a Christian in Indonesia.

In January last year, a court sentenced Syahril Marbun, a liturgical coordinator at St. Herculanus Catholic Church in Depok, West Java province, to 15 years in prison for sexually assaulting two altar boys.