12/03/2015, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Denied place of worship, Yasmin Church faithful celebrate Advent on streets

Moments of interfaith prayer in front of the presidential palace. Believers have been unable to celebrate Christmas in a church for six years because the authorities block its construction. Spokesman: "We want to involve all religions: we do not have to keep quiet just because a minority."


Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The faithful of the Indonesian Yasmin Bogor Christian Church (GKI) have decided to celebrate Advent and Christmas in the heart of Jakarta, in front of the presidential palace, involving all Christian denominations and other religions to demand respect for the rights of minorities. Yasmin spokesman Dwiati Novita Rini, told the Jakarta Post, said that "it will be an interreligious and interfaith celebration of Christmas."

The same spokesman announced that the community has received the support of some Human Rights networks such as the Setara Institute. The celebrations are organized together with the Batak Protestant Chuch (Hkbp), the largest Protestant denomination in Indonesia. Rini said that the services of Advent will be the December 6 and 13, while that Christmas will be held December 25, in the square next to the palace.

It will be the sixth Christmas in a row for Yasmin Church without a church building, since the administration of Bogor revoked the building permit (IMB) of the place of worship in 2010 and stopped the work. For several weekends, the faithful celebrated the liturgical service at the presidential palace, but the gesture has so far not convinced the president Joko Widodo to implement the commitment to protect religious minorities. Not even the fact that the governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also a Protestant, seems to be in favor of the faithful of the GKI Yasmin.

Over the years, the Protestants have received the support of many human rights organizations, such as the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (Lbh) and the Commission for the disappeared persons and victims of violence (Kontras). Bona Sigalingging, another community spokesperson, says: "Many friends come to support us every time we celebrate Christmas in front of the palace."

He believes that by inviting people of different religious faiths, the GKI encourage other Christian minorities to take courage and speak up, demanding the right to be protected by the state: "We want to knock on the doors of other Christian churches so that they can reflect and understand that they should not give up just because they are a minority".

Indonesia, the world’s most populous (Sunni) is increasingly the scene of attacks or episodes of intolerance against minority groups, whether Christian, Ahmadi Muslims or of other faiths. Yesterday, the coordinator of the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas Ham) office for religion and faith accused Jakarta of "turning a blind eye" on cases of abuses against religious minorities and not to use its authority to revoke discriminatory laws of local governments.

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