03/27/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Muslims force home church to close

by Benteng Reges

The purported reason was the lack of a permit to hold religious activities in a private house. The Pentecostal pastor said: "My church is older than this law, it doesn't require permission. If you shut it down, tell me where members of my community can go to pray".

Bogor (AsiaNews) – A crowd of Muslims of Griya Bukit Jaya Housing Complex, in Bogor Regency of West Java Province, forced a Christian pastor, Fekky Tatulus, to stop his Sunday service and to close his home church on Sunday 26 March. The reason given was that the lack of a permit to hold religious services in a private house.

The attack took place in the presence of around 200 members of the Indonesian Pentecostal Church – Gereja Pentakosta of Indonesia, better know as the GPDI – of the area. It is the first case of this kind since the approval of new, controversial ministerial decrees about building places of worship: numbers 8 and 9 of 2006, promulgated on 15 March last.

The incident started when some Muslims of the residential complex, together with others who came from outside, forced the pastor to interrupt the service. They set up blockades in the area to prevent the Christian congregation from meeting again. Police officials and soldiers of the Indonesian Army were on the scene but did nothing.

In a meeting with the pastor, the authorities of the Gunung Putri sub-regency, and the police chief of Bogor Regency, "invited" the leader and his community to "leave the scene and to end any form of religious activity". The pastor refused these "invitations" and did not sign the document the authorities presented to him, which would have been tantamount to "bowing" to the demands of the crowd.

Explaining his decision, Tatulus said his congregation needed a place to hold Sunday services and that his home church was born in 1987, three years before the promulgation of the Regulation of West Java about places of worship, that forbids the use of private houses for religious activities.

He told the enraged crowd: "Please tell me where 190 Christians can participate in Sunday services if you shut down this house".

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