04/14/2010, 00.00
INDONESIA

Bogor: Islamic extremists stronger than the Supreme Court, Protestant church closed

by Mathias Hariyadi
Two judgments of the Administrative Court of Bandung and the Supreme Court had ruled that the place of worship had necessary construction permits. The authorities ordered the closure, because of fundamentalist protests. From January 10 Protestant churches and one Catholic have halted celebrations.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The authorities of the regency of Bogor, West Java, have imposed a blockade on religious services - with no advance notice - on the faithful of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI). A member of the community, also known by the nickname Yasmin Church, said the decision "was taken by the [district] head of Bogor. However, the closure of the place of Christian worship violates two recent judgments of the Administrative Court of Bandung (PTUN) and the Indonesian Supreme Court.  

On 10 April Bogor authorities ordered the closure of the church, accepting the claims of Muslim extremists and pro-Islamic parties. To justify the measure, the "complaint" of a fringe fundamentalist that speaks of fraud in collecting signatures needed to obtain a building permit. An escalation of protests by the Islamic extremist wing, the leaders of the administration have sealed the building.    

The decision of authorities in Bogor regency, however, not only violates the religious freedom of Christians. It, in fact, ignores two recent judgments of the Administrative Court of Bandung (PTUN) and the Indonesian Supreme Court. The two bodies of Justice, addressed the faithful of the GKI, have determined that the petition was made according to law in July 2006, the church obtained by lawful means the IMB and the faithful have the right to use it.  

The process for building a church in Indonesia - Catholic or Protestant - as for all buildings is regulated by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a sort of written resolution of the local authorities that allows the opening of a construction. The story gets more complicated if it is a place of Christian worship: besides taking years, it must be cleared by at least 60 local residents in the area where the building is to be constructed and the local Group for interfaith dialogue. Even with permission, often the construction is stopped, and the permit is revoked under pressure from the Islamic fundamentalist wing of the local governments, an expression of religious fanaticism.  

The decision of authorities in Bogor regency, however, not only violates the religious freedom of Christians. It, in fact, ignores two recent judgments of the Administrative Court of Bandung (PTUN) and the Indonesian Supreme Court. The two bodies of Justice, addressing the concerns of the faithful of the GKI, determined that the petition was made according to law, in July 2006, the church obtained by lawful means the IMB and the faithful have the right to use it.  

From January 10 last at least 10 Protestant and one Catholic church were forced to halt services because of protests by Islamic extremists. The last case occurred on the occasion of Good Friday, in the sub-district Parung when a mob blocked the rites of the vigil. The faithful had to move to three different places, finally coming together in a "restaurant" to pray in safety.

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