09/11/2012, 00.00
INDONESIA

Christian leader cries shame as Minister, Mayor and Islamists close the Yasmin Church

by Mathias Hariyadi
Meeting decides to expel the Protestant community, despite regular permits and Constitutional Court judgment. YC leaders excluded from meeting and accuse Minister for Interior. A complaint to the police, supported by the Indonesian Churches and human rights activists.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - "It's shameful" denounces Bona Sigalingging, spokesperson for the GKI Yasmin Church, reacting to the closed-door meeting between the Minister of Internal Affairs of Indonesia, the leaders of the city of Bogor, West Java, and the leader of an Islamic extremist movement. The gathering has resulted in the expulsion of the Protestant community from their place of worship, despite the possession of regular building permits and a judgment of the Constitutional Court. In response, the leaders of the Christian movement have filed a formal complaint to the courts against the local administration and the mayor Diani Budiarto.

The meeting was held on September 8 and was atteneded by Gamawan Fauzi, Indonesian Minister of the Interior, Iman Ahmad, head of the Islamic extremist group Forkami, and the mayor of Bogor Diani Budiarto. The minister's decision has caused confusion within the Christian community, in addition to being excluded from the bargaining table, the faithful have had to passively endure the will of both parties  - the local administration and the extremist movement Forkami - who more than any other have "persecuted" the religious minority in recent months.

Interviewed by AsiaNews Bona Sigalingging, YC spokesperson, branded the decision to invite the leader of Forkami as "shameful". This is a wellknown "radical Islamic group," he adds, that "has fueled tension" and again "has succeeded in having us forcibly removed from our church." The YC leader notes that the decision to close the place of worship is contrary to the judgments of the Constitutional Court and the Ombudsman and that they have filed a complaint with the police. This latest appeal to the courts of justice is supported by the Synod of Indonesian Churches (PGI) and the Working Group on Human Rights, which speaks of "double face" of the government in terms of religious freedom.

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 late May, the faithful of the Yasmin Church celebrated Pentecost in Jakarta in front of the presidential palace. The Christians gathered near the residence of the head of state of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono because deprived of their places of worship. For three years, they have not been able to go to church, sealed at the behest of local authorities and the Mayor Diani Budiarto, who denounce alleged irregularities in the release of IBM.

 

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