03/16/2011, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Christians protest against the new closure of the Yasmin Church in Bogor

by Mathias Hariyadi
The authorities order the church building sealed under pressure from Muslim fundamentalists The Synod of Churches slams the government’s helplessness and local officials’ stubbornness. Fundamentalist pressures are stronger than court decisions. Three bombs are sent to activists and moderate Muslim leaders.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Christian community is protesting against the failure of the central government to “guarantee religious freedom” as well as the stubbornness of officials in Bogor, a municipality in West Java, who ordered the sealing of the Yasmin Church. Pressures from Muslim fundamentalists have once more undermined the principle of the rule of law and highlighted the weakness of a country increasingly victim of extremism. Meanwhile, the three packages containing bombs were delivered yesterday to activists and moderate Muslim leaders. The bomb squad defused two of them; a third exploded, slightly wounding a number of people.

Following demonstrations by some 150 Muslim fundamentalists, Bogor authorities closed down the Yasmin Church, which is at the core of a legal battle between the local government and the local Christian community. The Synod of Indonesian Churches (PGI) called the decision an “unfriendly act”. For Rev Gomar Gultom, moving the church to another location is not a better solution because it “favours divisions among the faithful” in a society that should be “pluralistic”.

Bogor officials revoked the building permit it had issued alleging that the required signatures by local residents were “false”. A local Muslim leader added that the “Muslim community has always been opposed to the construction of the church”.

The PGI blames the stubbornness of Bogor authorities, and has called on the central government to enforce a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Yasmin Church’s legality.

Building a church in Indonesia, whether Catholic or Protestant, or any other building requires a permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan or IMB in Indonesian) as well as the signature of 60 residents in the area where it is supposed to be erected. Despite having all the right papers, the building of churches is often prevented and permits revoked by local governments under pressures from Muslim fundamentalists.

Calvin Lambe, head of the PGI chapter in West Java, blames Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto, for failing to uphold the law. For the Christian activist, the lawyers representing the Yasmin Church won in court four times. He asks then, “Why should the church’s doors stay shut?”

Human rights groups have pointed out that the case is but one in a series of violations of religious freedom, a sign of the government’s weakness and inability to cope with extremist pressures. “The government is afraid of fundamentalist movements,” Febry Yoneska, of the Jakarta Aid Foundation, said.

The three bomb packages against activists and moderate Muslim leaders are signs that fear is also well founded. One of the bombs, concealed in a book, was sent to the office of Ulil Abshar Abdalla, head of the Liberal Islamic Network (JIL), injuring three people. Another was delivered to General Gories Mere, a former chief of the anti-terrorism branch and currently in charge of the anti-narcotics agency, and a third bomb was sent to Yapto S. Soerjosoemarno, a lawyer who heads the Pancasila Youth Group. The bomb squad was able to defuse the bombs sent to the general and the lawyer.

The head of the police said members of a local terror network must have sent the bombs because only “some people know how to make a bomb”.

At present, no one knows whether the triple attack is connected in any way with the trial currently underway in Jakarta against controversial Muslim leader Abu Bakar Baasyir.

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