02/19/2020, 15.46
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Protests against St Joseph Church not intolerance

For the Religious Affairs Ministry, the building permit is the issue. The parish has all the papers needed to tear down the old building and put up a new one. Islamic radicals have filed a lawsuit against the government agency that issued the permits. The parish has agreed to wait for a ruling on the matter.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Ministry has denied claims that religious intolerance is behind the protest against construction work at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Karimun, a remote regency in Riau Islands province.

The local Catholic parish has all the regular permits, and wants to demolish the original building for a larger structure to accommodate more worshippers.

Tensions resulted in a violent demonstration on 6 February when scores of Islamic radicals gathered outside the parish building. Shouting slogans and insults, they tried to break in and even attack the church spokesman.

Yesterday, a Religious Affairs official released an update on the long-running saga, which has been the subject of a heated controversy for weeks.

Returning from Karimun, Ubaidilah Amin Moech told the press that “there is no sectarian problem. The issue concerns only building permits (IMB).” He added that the church renovation committee agreed to await Tanjungpinang State Administrative Court in Batam to rule on a case related to the project.

Months ago, the Islamist-inspired Karimun Regency Caring Alliance (APKK) sued the district agency that released the building permits for the church.

A few days ago, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD announced that the case had been settled, and that the parties had agreed to refrain from any action that could increase tensions.

Work on the church stopped 13 days ago after protests by APKK and the local United Muslim Forum. The two groups are demanding that the structure, built 92 years ago by Dutch missionaries, be classified a "place of historical interest,” thus preventing any work on the building.

In reality, Islamists have asked that the church be moved elsewhere, said the local parish priest, Fr Kristiono.

The parish obtained all the necessary papers last October. The committee had been working on getting them since May 2012, when it asked for the support of local, mostly Muslim residents.

The parish managed to collect 107 signatures from non-Catholic residents of Tanjung Balai, who approved the project.

Under a 2006 ministerial decree on procedures for building places of worship, every religious community must obtain 90 signatures from its members and another 60 from other residents before construction can go ahead.

The Tanjung Balai district office issued a letter dated 2 July 2012, recommending rebuilding the church.

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