02/12/2007, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Muslims force home church to close down

by Benteng Reges
In West Java yesterday, a crowd of local residents and Islamic activists broke into the home of a Christian that was being used as a church. The owner ceded to their requests and stopped the religious service. The revision of a Decree on places of worship has proved to be insufficient to guarantee Indonesian Christians the right to worship

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A crowd of Muslims has forced the closure of another home church in Bandung regency in the Indonesian province of West Java. Yesterday, 11 February, around 100 people – including local residents and members of the Anti-Proselytism Division of the Indonesian Muslim Ulemas Forum (FUUI) – entered the house of Tayung in Padawulun village. This house was used on a weekly basis as a place for prayer by members of the Bethel Church Group (GBI). Tayung had no choice but to “accept” the demand to stop the religious service under way in his home. Other Christians were also present when the Sunday service was disrupted and all were forced to leave.

The organizers of the violent anti-Christian protest said: “Complaints about religious activities in Tayung’s house had already been sent before to GBI leaders but no response was ever given.” The residents and some extremists claim that the house has been illegally converted into a church and what’s more, it is situated near a mosque.

Omay Komarudin, the village leader, said: “The tough reaction of the crowd was justified because our warnings were never taken into consideration.” He continued: “We decided to react when last week a GBI member got drunk and was heard saying that no one had the right to close the church.” The village leader said 23 out of 220 families in Padawulun were Christians and only three formed part of the GBI.

It is not the first time such incidents have taken place in Bandung. Suryana Nurfatwa of the FUUI said yesterday’s move was not prompted by hatred for Christians. “We are in favour of all legal churches but the GBI transformed a house into a church and this is against the law.” But Almer, a GBI representative, said: “Getting a permit to build a place of worship in Indonesia is not easy.”

Since 2005, fundamentalist violence against so-called illegal home churches is on the rise. To respond to the problem, a year ago, the central government enacted the much-anticipated revision of a 1969 ministerial decree (SKB No1/1969) that regulates the construction of places of worship. The long procedures and problems involved in obtaining permits to build often force faith communities to practice their faith in illegal conditions.

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