10/20/2009, 00.00
INDONESIA
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West Java, the construction of the Catholic church of Saint Mary blocked

Two years ago the go ahead was granted by local authorities, who have now stopped the project over alleged "irregularities". The Christian community speaks of an excuse and leaves the matter in the hands of a lawyer. "It may take up to 10 years to get permission to build a church in Indonesia, only to have it retracted under pressure from Islamic movements”.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church of Saint Mary in the district of Purwakarta, West Java province, will not be built, the authorities have revoked the building permits issued two years ago. It is a massive disappointment to the faithful, who had supervised the preparation of all documents and had obtained all necessary permits. Local officials argue that there have been some "irregularities", in the process that led to the issuance of the go ahead. According to the Christians these irregularities are a pretext to block the project.

The process for building a church in Indonesia - Catholic or Protestant - is quite complicated and may take five to ten years to obtain all permits required by law. The procedure is governed by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a species of written protocol that allows for construction to commence and is issued by local authorities.  

The story gets more complicated if it is a place of Christian worship: permission must be obtained from a number of residents in the area where the building is to be constructed and the local Group for Interfaith Dialogue. And even if the permission is granted "unspecified reasons" can come into play that will lead officials to block the projects. Often, this occurs after pressure from the Muslim community or radical Islamic movements in the name of religious fanaticism.

Yesterday, the Indonesian newspaper Tempo reported on an order issued by Dedi Mulyadi, head of Purwakarta district, who officially revoked the permit - issued two years earlier - to build the church of Saint Mary in the village of Cinangka in sub-district Bungur of Sari. Jaenal Arifin, a local official, explained that the letter is dated 16 October and that there were some "irregularities" discovered in the granting of the IMB. The investigation into the resident’s approval carried out by the Interfaith Dialogue Forum Agency (Fkub) revealed "45 positive opinions" instead of "over 60" as required by law. “So the permit - concludes Arifin - has been withdrawn." Hadi, an official with the local church of Saint Mary does not want to comment on the story and explains that "everything is in the hands of our lawyer."

In the past, Indonesia has recorded cases of sudden and mysterious revocation of permits to build Christian places of worship. Among these, a Protestant church, blocked by Nurmahmudi Ismail, former leader of the PKS - a radical Islamic movement - and current mayor of Depok, in the regency of Bogor. In 2004, a Pentecostal church in Tanjun Senen, in the city of Bandar Lampung (capital of Lampung province) was closed by a local protest, raised against the construction of the building. (MH)

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