Jakarta (AsiaNews) - After long peaceful battles and nine and years of waiting,
the Catholic community in Ciledug, Tangerang Regency (Banten province) rejoiced
after local authorities authorised the reopening of Saint Bernadette Catholic Church.
However, their joy lasted only a few hours because Islamic extremist groups quickly
mounted a protest campaign, demanding that the place of worship be sealed up
again even though it holds a building permit (IMB). According to some witnesses,
many of the protesters (pictured) who
had gathered yesterday near the building to prevent Sunday celebrations were
not locals, but members of the so-called Islamic Forum who came "from
elsewhere" to fuel the protest.
Sources, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews that in recent days, outgoing Tangerang Mayor Wahid Halid
issued the permit to reopen the church shut down in 2004. Yet, he was the same
one who had seals placed on the church's entrances to placate fundamentalist
protests opposed to the presence of a Christian place of worship.
getting a permit to build a Catholic or a Protestant church is complicated and
may take five to ten years. Construction requires a building permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan or IMB) issued
by local authorities plus a certain number of signatures from local residents
and the local Interfaith Dialogue Group. Unfortunately, often local officials
block projects for "unspecified reasons" under pressure from radical
news (about the reopening) are true," a source in Saint Bernadette parish told
AsiaNews. The permit "arrived
last week" with the signature of Mayor Halid, who will soon leave the post
to the current deputy.
as soon as news of the release of the permit began circulating protests began,
reaching a crescendo yesterday, Sunday. Members of self-styled Islamist extremist
groups took to the streets with slogans, signs and chants, making threats in
case plans to build the church went ahead.
to cancel the second Mass of the day," a priest said, amid the dismay and
anger of many parishioners in a community that has now reached the 11,000 people.
For far too long, they have been forced to conduct services at "makeshift"
locations or in neighbouring parishes.
is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Whilst upholding the principle of
religious freedom in its constitution, it has become more and more the scene of
attacks and violence against minorities, Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or other
Although Aceh is the only province in the country that enforces Islamic
law (Sharia), religious radicalism has increased in many other regions as the
influence of Islam increases in the lives of people.
Some issues, such as building permits to Christian groups, have been used
to deny Christians the right to build or reopen their churches, as with the Yasmin Church in
Bogor regency, West Java.