12/01/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Demolition of five churches averted

by Benteng Reges

Protests by residents of Tangerang regency averted the destruction of five Protestant churches and a small mosque built on public land.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Protests by groups of residents of Tangerang regency in Banten province yesterday morning averted the demolition of five Protestant churches by public authorities. The authorities are now in two minds about whether they should fulfill their mission or not.

The Tangerang government said the churches, situated in an area 50km west of Jakarta, had been constructed on public land without any permit at all. The forces of order, known as the Satuan Polisi Pamong praja/Satpol PP were charged with carrying out the demolition operations.

Hendri Manalu, a spokesman for the Indonesian Protestant church, said the authorities should not destroy the churches, even if they were standing on public land. "They were built five years ago without violating any regulations and we therefore ask that they will not be pulled down. Anyhow, we are close to Christmas now."

He added that the demolition plan appeared to be linked to a long-term economic plan of local firms. Already in September last year, a state company had sought to reach agreement with residents about a scheme to construct a commercial complex on the land. "These people define themselves as representatives of the state," continued Manalu.

The unauthorized construction of sacred buildings is usually attributed to the extreme difficulty of obtaining construction permits legally from public authorities. Sometimes, after interminable waiting, communities decide to build their own church.

The five churches at risk of demolition are: the Protestant Pentecostal Church, the Indonesian Pentecostal Church, the Batak Society Christian Church, the Alleluia Pentecostal and the Bethel Church. Apart from the churches, the Satpol PP was also supposed to demolish a small mosque known as mushola.

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