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» 10/18/2012
INDONESIA
Nine churches and six Buddhist temples shut down under Islamist pressure in Banda Aceh
by Mathias Hariyadi
For the city's deputy mayor, the buildings were not being properly used. They lacked the proper building permit and were used for "unlawful" purposes. She pledged greater monitoring of minority activities. Local sources say that the crackdown is the result of threats from extremist groups. FPI now wants other cities and towns to do the same.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Authorities in Banda Aceh, capital of the Aceh Special Territory, ordered the closure of nine Christian home churches and six Buddhist prayer houses for alleged irregularities in their building permit. According to Deputy Mayor Hajjah Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal, the buildings were illegal because they lacked the right permit. Under the law, private homes cannot be used "for religious ceremonies or functions."

"Aceh is a special territory that enforces Sharia," she said and home churches violate the law because they lack the appropriate building permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan in Indonesian).

The issue is more complicated in the case of Christian places of worship because the latter require the agreement of a certain number of local residents and that of the local interfaith dialogue group. Under the pressure of radical Muslim groups, permits are often denied.

Deputy Mayor Djamal also wants the authorities to monitor the activities of Buddhist and Christian communities to ensure that their services are performed in the right places. This is necessary, in her view, to "maintain interfaith harmony." At the same time, "we shall not issue any new permit for other churches or vihara (Buddhist temples)."

Local Muslim extremists welcomed the decision. Yusuf Al-Qardhawy, head of the Aceh branch of the Islamic Defence Front (FPI), called on other jurisdictions to follow Banda Aceh, enforce Islamic law and stop any non-Muslim worship activity that is not approved.

He said the situation would be monitored constantly to ensure that rules are respected. Local sources note that the municipal order shutting Buddhist and Christian places of worship follows a complaint filed by Islamists concerning an "improper" use of buildings.

The province of Aceh, the westernmost of the archipelago of Indonesia, is also the only one which is subject to Sharia. Compliance is ensured by the 'morality police,' a special force that punishes violations in dress and behaviour.

In the past, a relative calm and religious harmony between the Muslim majority and "foreigners," members of various non-Islamic faiths, prevailed under the leadership of former guerrilla leader, now Governor Irwandy Yusuf.

More recently the situation has changed however. Attacks against religious minorities have started and fundamentalists has gained more power and freedom of action.

In last April's elections, Zaini Abdullah, a former guerrilla leader who lived in exile in Sweden, won promising to fight corruption and impose Islamic law.

The strict application of Sharia was one of the conditions separatist rebels imposed on Jakarta to end their armed struggle.

As a result of a recent spike in sectarian tensions, the area saw violence and attacks against Christian communities, which led to the closure of places of worship on the order of the authorities claiming that they lacked proper building permits.


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See also
05/18/2005 INDONESIA
Jakarta lifts Aceh emergency rule
12/26/2006 INDONESIA
Tsunami: Reconstruction in Aceh and Nias Island blocked by corruption
by Benteng Reges
01/05/2005 INDONESIA
Famine haunts the population of Simeuleu Island
by Mathias Hariyadi
10/13/2008 INDONESIA
Aceh gives a hero’s welcome to former ‘Enemy Number 1’ Hasan Tiro
by Mathias Hariyadi
03/04/2005 INDIA
No government aid for Christian Dalit in 2005 budget
by Nirmala Carvalho

Editor's choices
IRAQ-ITALY
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul," the thanks of the Patriarch Louis Sako; the concerns of the Bishop of Kurdistan
by Bernardo CervelleraThe head of the Chaldean Church is grateful for the AsiaNews campaign and hopes that "this chain of solidarity will reach far and wide”. Helping refugees to remain in Iraq. But many want to flee abroad. The bishop of Amadiyah where thousands of displaced people have found haven in churches and homes: We also help the Arabs (Muslims), and Yazidis, for free and without looking at our confessional differences.
ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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