» 06/03/2014, 00.00
West Java authorities yield to Islamic pressure and close down seven Protestant churches
Cianjur district chiefs close down seven places of worship over alleged irregularities in building permits (IMB). The IMB dates back to 2006, but the churches have been active since the end of the 70s . Christian leaders: some of the faithful have moved for "security reasons", for fear of attacks.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Under pressure from Islamic
extremist movements the authorities in Cianjur district , 90 km from Jakarta,
have ordered the closure of seven Protestant Christian churches for alleged
irregularities in building permits (the infamous IMB), confirming that the
province of West Java is one of the most "intolerant" towards
religious minorities in Indonesia.
The places of worship that have been closed down are: Pentecost Church in Indonesia (GPdI)
in Ciranjang, the Pentecost Movement Church (GGP) also Ciranjang, the Christian
New Testament Church (GKPB), the Bethlehem Pentecoste (GGPB), the Bethel Church
of Indonesia (GBI), the Evangelist Whole International Church (GISI), and the Church of People's Synod
(GSJA) - all in Cianjur District of West Java Province.
process for building a church in Indonesia - Catholic or Protestant - is quite
complicated and may take five to ten years to obtain all permits required by
law. The procedure is governed by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a
species of written protocol that allows for construction to commence and is
issued by local authorities. The story gets more complicated if it is a
place of Christian worship: permission must be obtained from a number of
residents in the area where the building is to be constructed and the local
Group for Interfaith Dialogue. And even if the permission is granted
"unspecified reasons" can come into play that will lead officials to
block the projects. Often, this occurs after pressure from the Muslim community
or radical Islamic movements in the name of religious fanaticism.
Rev. Oferlin Hai, president of Church of People's Synod, confirms that
the alleged lack of building permits - a 2006 law - led to the seizure of the
buildings. He points out, however, that the sites have been used by the
community, "well before the norm became law". Already in 2013, he
said, some Ciranjang police officers - under pressure from Islamic extremists -
had shown hostile "attitudes" towards Christians. Recently the president of
the Forum for Interfaith Dialogue ( FKUB ) Tjepi Djauharuddin had loudly
demanded their closure.
The leader explains that Christian churches have been active since 1977 and
were opened with the support and approval of the local branch of the Ministry
of Religious Affairs; in 1990 a similar approval was issued by the Cianjur authorities
. "We no longer have a place of worship to come together and pray", says the pastor,
who adds that some of the faithful "have moved to other places for
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, following a peace agreement between the central government and the
Free Aceh Movement (GAM). 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 (Izin Mendirikan
Bangunan or IMB in Indonesian) 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. In December last year, at
least five Christian places of worship have had to close their doors
due to pressure from Islamists.
Bogor: Islamic extremists stronger than the Supreme Court, Protestant church closed
Two judgments of the Administrative Court of Bandung and the Supreme Court had ruled that the place of worship had necessary construction permits. The authorities ordered the closure, because of fundamentalist protests. From January 10 Protestant churches and one Catholic have halted celebrations.
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Tens of thousands of police and army units deployed to protect places of worship. Among the provinces considered most at risk the Central Java and West Java. In recent days, the Christian community has suffered threats and assaults. Father in-law of Noordin M. Top, one of the country's most wanted, captured.
Five churches and a mussola demolished.
The five churches and small mosque had been constructed on public land in Banten region. A complex of houses and shops will replace the churches. In Java, 25 churches were closed down within a year.
Extremists demonstrate against the opening of the Yasmin church in Bogor, West Java
Indonesia’s Supreme Court ruled that Christians have the right to use a site they own for religious functions. Local authorities, who had stopped church construction in 2008, are now criticised for not implementing the court ruling, allowing Islamic extremists to patrol the site.
After 40 years a Catholic Church in West Java is forced to close
Christ’s Peace Church has been active since 1968 now local Muslims are contesting the use of the buildings for religious purposes. With the backing of police and local politicians the extremists have won their battle: the parish does not have the legal permit and therefore must close down. For years the church had sought to obtain the permit without success, gaining only a staunch refusal from the government.
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