Central Java, Islamic extremists against Christians: five churches at risk demolition
by Mathias Hariyadi
A fundamentalist group is appealing to local government, to obtain the closure of places of worship. They allege the faithful do not have a building permits (IMB). In reality, the local government refuses to release the documents, despite the clearance from provincial authorities. Threats also affect nine churches in West Java.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - An Islamic extremist group in Pracimantoro, a town in the district of Wonogiri, in central Java, has appealed to local government for the demolition of five Protestant churches in the area. The alarm is launched by Theophilus Bela, human rights activist and promoter of interfaith dialogue, according to whom that the fundamentalists complaint claims the Christian communities lack the building permits (IMB) for places of worship. The tension in the area is steadily increasing, and rumors of threats of demolition, circulating since yesterday evening in a series of documents, is not contributing to calming tempers. Previously, adds the Christian activist, extremist threats have focused on nine other churches in Bekasi regency, West Java.
The procedure for the construction of a church in Indonesia - Catholic or Protestant - is complicated and it can take five to ten years to obtain all required permits. The procedure is governed by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a written resolution that allows the opening of a building site and is issued by local authorities. The story gets more complicated when it comes to a place of Christian worship: it has to be cleared by a quorum of residents in the area where the building is to be constructed and the local Interreligious Dialogue committee. And "unspecified reasons" that lead officials to block the projects, under pressure from radical Islamic movements often take over.
A document released at the weekend explains the Christian community’s reasons for concern. The Pracimantoro Islamist group is led by a religious who " also holds the post of Head of the local Government Department for Religious Affairs." On December 1, during a committee meeting, it emerged that the Islamic extremist group submitted a demolition request. The five churches, local sources tell, have received authorization to operate from the office for religious affairs of Semarang, the provincial capital, but have not yet been handed over the IMB.
Christians have submitted documentation to the local department of Pracimantoro, but so far officials have purposely avoided evaluating their case or granting the appropriate permissions. Churches waiting to receive permission are: the Pentecostal church in the village of Ngalu Wetana, the All Nations Church in Gebangharjo, the Protestant Church in Javanese Godang, the Bethel Tabernacle Church, also in Gebangharjo and finally, the Christian Nazareth Church in Lebak.
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