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  • » 03/22/2013, 00.00


    West Java, Bekasi church demolished to gain Islamist consent ahead of elections

    Mathias Hariyadi

    Orders issued by the authorities Carried out, despite the pleas of the faithful. Christian leaders call for calm and to avoid "hostile” gestures. Behind the demolition of the shadow of the elections and the attempt to win Islamic extremist fringe votes. Yasmin Church also at risk.

    Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Christian leaders are inviting the faithful to remain calm and avoid any "hostile" act that could exacerbate a delicate situation even more. However, tension is very high and violent episodes could exlode in response to the demolition of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestant  (Hkbp) Setu Church in Bekasi, in the Indonesian province of West Java, the demolition of the building was carried out late yesterday evening despite the appeal of the community that took to the streets to defend the place of worship. The authorities did not want to listen to the arguments of the Christian minority, destroying - after a standoff that lasted months - a church used for over 13 years for weekend services.

    For the Bekasi Regency administration, the demolition is legitimized because the church lacked the proper building permits, the infamous IMB (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan). The procedure for the construction of a church in Indonesia - Catholic or Protestant - is complicated and it can take five to ten years to obtain all permissions. The written resolution that allows the opening of a construction site is issued by the local authorities. The process is even more complicated if it is a place of Christian worship: permission for the construction of the building must gain the approval of a majority of local residents and the local group for Interreligious Dialogue. And often "unspecified reasons" come in to play that lead officials to halt projects, under pressure from radical Islamic movements.

    The Protestant Church of Setu apparently does not have the proper papers, although representatives of the Christian community have repeatedly applied for the necessary authorizations without any response.

    According to Hkbp Setu Church sources, yesterday's demolition - branded as "serious violation of religious freedom" - was motivated by "political opportunism".  Episodes of tension and inter-faith attacks on the Christian minority are frequent in West Java, now the situation is being compounded by "electoral calculations" ahead of the upcoming regional vote for a new mayor. To gain the consensus of the Muslim majority nation, especially Islamic fundamentalists, politicians attack the rights and freedoms of minorities, especially Christians.

    Pastor Leonard Nababan, head of Hkbp Bekasi, invites the faithful to remain calm and avoid any act of violence. At the same time, he promises to make "every necessary effors to defend the right to free practice of religion."

    Now the attention of activists and observers will move to the GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor, West Java regency, which is also at risk of demolition like the one that took place in Bekasi.


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    See also

    20/10/2009 INDONESIA
    West Java, the construction of the Catholic church of Saint Mary blocked
    Two years ago the go ahead was granted by local authorities, who have now stopped the project over alleged "irregularities". The Christian community speaks of an excuse and leaves the matter in the hands of a lawyer. "It may take up to 10 years to get permission to build a church in Indonesia, only to have it retracted under pressure from Islamic movements”.

    11/08/2015 INDONESIA
    West Java, Islamic extremists block construction of St. Clare Parish
    Opponents argue that the faithful do not have a building permit. In reality, the permit was obtained, after 17 years. The church should serve 9 thousand faithful. The Bekasi mayor gives in to protesters' demands. Religious intolerance is one the rise in the country and there is a certain "impotence" of the government in curbing Islamic Extremists. A long list of churches blocked or scrapped.

    17/02/2010 INDONESIA
    Bekasi: Islamic groups against the Protestant church, it promotes proselytizing
    At least 16 extremist movements have ordered an end to the charitable activities and worship. They attempt to hide "forced conversions". Leaders of the Protestant Synod: unfounded accusations. In 2009 over 200 cases of violations of religious freedom. The Catholic church of Saint Mary wins the legal battle against the authorities of Purwakarta.

    08/02/2010 INDONESIA
    Bekasi, anti-Christian persecution continues. A Protestant church targeted
    A crowd of 200 Muslims launches intimidating messages at the faithful and prohibits the use of a local church for Sunday services. The attackers claim to be residents of the area. Protestant pastor denies this: “definitely strangers". From 2009 to now at least 17 Christian churches targeted.

    23/01/2010 INDONESIA
    North Sumatra, two Protestant churches burnt: "too many faithful and too many prayers"
    At least 1,000 people set fire to the Pentecostal community places of worship. According to local Muslims, the two buildings did not have the legal permits as "churches." The Nahdlatul Ulama admits the violence of radical Islamists against Christians. In 2009 in Indonesia, 35 cases of violation of religious freedom, 28 against Christians.

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