02/12/2010, 00.00
INDONESIA

West Java, a crowd of 150 Muslims block construction of Protestant church

Mathias Hariyadi
Demonstration of extremists prompts authorities to revoke the building permits. Local official: the signatures collected are "irregular". The final decision of waiting for today. The Conference of Bishops makes a formal protest in Parliament.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A crowd of over 150 Muslims in the village of Curug Mekar, in the sub district of West Bogor (West Java province), staged a protest against the building permit (IMB) of a Protestant church. The event has prompted local authorities to revoke the authorization, justifying the decision by alleged "irregularities" in the collection of signatures needed for the building of the place of Christian worship.  

At the center of the controversy is the Protestant Church of Yasmin in the village of Curug Mekar. Yesterday Bambang Gunawan, executive secretary of local government, assured the protesters that "we need to review the process that led to the issuance of the building permit." The issue will be discussed today before the mayor, who will decide whether to definitively confirm or withdraw the permit. The words uttered by the Executive Secretary unleashed demonstrators’ joy.  

The document issued by the Indonesian authorities for the construction of buildings (IMB) requires a structured process, which is further complicated in the case of Christian places of worship. Governmental permits, must be approved "without prejudice" by collecting signatures of residents of the area affected by the project. It may take up to 10 years to get all the needed documents in order.

Bambang Gunawan said that the earlier granted permission has no legal status because "the signatures of the residents are irregular and some were falsified”. A statement welcomed by Muslims, who say they are "happy because the aim was reached." The church, in fact, is currently locked and no one knows if it will be opened in the future. Imam Ahmad Hajj, a chief of the Indonesian Muslim Communication Forum (Forkami) in Bogor, is "sure" that "the IMB will be withdrawn."  

The Indonesian Bishops' Conference has also intervened against the repeated and sudden revocation of building permits, making a formal protest in Parliament. A crowd of Muslims blocked the building of the Catholic church of Saint Mary at Purwakarta in West Java province. The faithful had obtained all permits, denounce the bishops, but the realization of the place of worship is still pending and the local authorities fail to protect the legitimate rights of minorities.

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