04/12/2012, 00.00
INDONESIA
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West Java: Yasmin Church members celebrate Easter underground

by Mathias Hariyadi
Forced by extremists and the authorities to meet in secret, churchgoers still hold Holy Week services, meeting at various private homes to avoid attacks. The head of the Synod of Indonesian Churches appeals to the authorities to respect religious freedom.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Against a background of threats from Muslim extremists and great pressure from the authorities of the city of Bogor (West Java), especially the major, the members of a Protestant community, the Taman Yasmin Church (GKI), celebrated Holy Week and Easter services in secret, opting to meet and hold services in different private homes. In one case, at least 78 GKI members met in great secret on Easter Sunday for an underground ceremony to mark the Resurrection of Jesus. "This time, the secretary general of the Synod of Indonesian Churches (PGI), Rev Gomar Gultom was also present," a GKI spokesperson told AsiaNews.

Since church members have been prevented from holding their services in public, prayers and celebrations have been held underground. Although churchgoers "have been targeted by hard-liners," the police has refused to protect them, GKI spokesperson Bona Sigalingging said. "This is really a paradox. When we informed them [the police] of the place where we wanted to worship, fundamentalists would easily find us and attack us," Sigalingging explained, without eliciting any police intervention.

Speaking to his fellow Christians, Rev Gomar Gultom expressed his strong appreciation for their strong commitment to practice their Christian faith despite intense attacks and violence.

The Protestant leader also made an appeal to Bogor authorities to uphold the law and protect human rights, including religious freedom.

The Yasmin Protestant Church has been the scene of open violations of the law and the principle of religious freedom by Bogor mayor Diani Budiarto. In total contempt for a ruling by Indonesia's Supreme Court in favour of the local Christian community, he has prevented Christians from holding their services.

In spite of the fact that it was built by the book and had all the building permits necessary for places of worship, the authorities seized the church.

In October, the mayor ordered the security forces to remove worshippers who, deprived of their church, had opted to hold their services in the street. Now even that has been denied to them.

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