03/25/2014, 00.00
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West Java, Islamists block construction of a Catholic Church

by Mathias Hariyadi
Fundamentalists target Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Cibubur, Bekasi regency. The local court points to danger of “sectarian violence", gives in to intimidation and stops the project. The priest presents all of the necessary permits and confirms: "The construction will continue, so far 70% of the structure built".

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Under pressure and intimidation from Islamic extremists, a civil court in West Java revoked the building permit - the infamous Izin Mendirikan Bangunan, IMB - for the Catholic Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Cibubur, Bekasi regency. During the hearing, a crowd outside the courtroom threatened the judges, shouting that their demands be met. The president of the court Edi Firmansyah decided to revoke that permission to avoid episodes of "sectarian violence" between different religious communities. This is just the latest episode in a long series of violations and abuses of religious freedom, which have characterized the recent history of Indonesia since the end of the Suharto regime. The phenomena have increased in recent years under the Yudhoyono presidency.  The Head of State is accused of being overly soft with Islamic extremists.

Judges of the Pengadilan Tata Usaha Negara (PTUN) - the local administrative court - revoked the permit issued in 2012 by the Bekasi mayor Rachmat Effendy. The ruling is the result of a lawsuit brought by Islamic extremist groups in Jatisampurna in a class action with other groups from several other cities in West Java.

The new church was built under the patronage of the parish of Saint Servatius of Tongeren , in Kampung Sawah , approximately 10 km from the area of ​​construction. Speaking to AsiaNews, the parish priest Fr. Rudianto explains that he followed all the legal procedures to obtain the IMB: "All procedures were properly done and all parties were also involved.  We have all recorded videos to prove that nothing wrong or 'illicit' gestures have been exercised". He also accuses extremist groups, which have opposed the construction of the church of "hostile acts" against the Christian community, fomenting riots and divisions in society.

Local sources said that there is a progressive increase of tensions in the area, with dozens of extremists ready to "seal" the construction site, the building is still under construction and about 70% of the overall structure has been completed, as confirmed by the parish priest Fr . Rudianto . The project will go ahead, he adds, because the judgment that annulled the IMB has not imposed the halting of the project.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Increasingly however, it has become the scene of attacks or episodes of intolerance against minorities, whether they are Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or belong to other faiths.  Aceh is the only Indonesian province where Sharia (Islamic law) is enforced, yet, in many other areas of the country, a more radical and extreme vision of Islam is spreading among ordinary Indonesians.

Certain rules such as the infamous building permit have been used to prevent the construction of Christian places of worship or stop construction already underway, as was the case for the Yasmin Church in West Java. Catholics are a small minority of about seven million, or 3 per cent of the population. Although the country's constitution recognises religious freedom, Catholics have been the victims of violence and abuse.


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