04/24/2014, 00.00
INDONESIA

Bogor: Christians appeal to new mayor to let Yasmin Church reopen

On 7 April, Bima Arya Sugiarto replaced controversial Mayor Diani Budiarto, who had the church closed. His decision, which violated a Constitutional Court ruling, was taken under pressures from Islamists. The new mayor now has to put "an end" to abuses against the Christian community, which this year celebrated Easter in the open air.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Members of the GKI Yasmin Church appealed to Bima Arya Sugiarto, the new mayor of Bogor (West Java), to keep the promise he made a few weeks ago to reopen their church before the presidential election in July.

For a long time, the place of worship has been at the centre of a controversy involving local authorities against the city's Christian minority.

Former mayor Diani Budiarto had had the building sealed in response to demands by Islamic extremists. Even a ruling in favour of the Church by the Constitutional Court in 2010 was not enough to see the building returned to the faithful.

Bima and his deputy, Usmar Hariman, took office on 7 April. "The matter is now in their hands," said GKI Yasmin Church spokesman Bona Sigalingging. Hence, "we ask them to respect the ruling" of the Supreme Court and "put an end" to the abuses perpetrated for years by the former mayor.

On Easter Sunday, members of the community along with a delegation from the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) Philadelphia Bekasi celebrated an outdoor service in front of a government building.

Like in the past, they tried to raise awareness about their predicament in the general public and the main parties involved in the case.

A few days ago, Bogor's new mayor pledged he would find a solution to the issue during his inauguration.  "I am optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement," Mayor Bima Arya Sugiarto said. 

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has increasingly seen attacks or acts of intolerance against minorities, such as Christians and Ahmadi Muslims as well as members of other faiths.

Some regulations, like building permits, have been used to prevent the construction of places of worship or close them down, as was the case in West Java with the Yasmin Church.

In 2006, district authorities had granted the Church all the necessary building permits required by law, only to revoke them under pressure from Muslims encouraged by extremist Islamist groups.

For many years, local Christians had to conduct religious services out in the open, hoping to see their church returned one day.

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See also
Bogor: “war” against Yasmin Church as the faithful pray in streets
04/04/2011
Yasmin Church celebrates Sunday Mass in front of presidential palace in Jakarta
30/01/2012
West Java: Christians bring their protest to the UN after their Church is closed
04/06/2010
West Java: Yasmin Church members celebrate Easter underground
12/04/2012
West Java: Moderate Muslims defend the Yasmin Church's Christmas
29/12/2011