03/24/2011, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Yasmin Church: the mayor of Bogor revokes permit for church

by Mathias Haryiadi
The official reason is false signatures on application, but it is believed to be an excuse. Christians and rights groups denounce a decision contrary to the law and a political will to appease Islamic extremist groups.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Controversy is mounting over the decision of the Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto to revoke permission to build a place of worship for Yasmin Church (Yc). Christian groups and civil rights groups have accused him of violating the law and bending to the will of Islamic fundamentalists, and warn that the fight will continue to see the church built.

On March 1, Budiarto revoked the building permit (IMB) from the Yc. Prior to this, construction was prevented by violence from extremist Islamic groups and Budiarto suspended the permit, but Christians appealed and went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled the building of a church legitmate.

Nevertheless, on March 20 about 500 armed police prevented the faithful from entering the construction site, to attend Sunday service (see photo). The service took place, presided by rev. Gomar Gultom of the Synod of Indonesian Churches (PGI).

The local police chief Slamet Nugroho Wubowo justified the police intervention saying security was needed to prevent clashes with Islamic extremist groups that oppose the construction. Only later was the IMB revoked, apparently on charges that some of the names of permit application are false, an accusation believed to be unfounded.

In Indonesia, buildings must be approved by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a local authority permit that authorises construction. 60 local residents have to give written permission for the project before the permit can be issued. The Yc holds an IMB, issued in 2006 by Budiarto’s predecessor. Nevertheless, construction has been halted several times because of violence from radical Islamist groups (see the AsiaNews 16 Mar. 2011, Christians protest against the new closure of the Yasmin Church in Bogor).

Yc spokesman, Bona Sigalingging Sh, told AsiaNews that Mayor’s revoking of the permit is "a clear violation of the law", especially after the recent ruling by the Supreme Court "that ordered the official to resume construction." He confirms the will to continue the battle in every possible way, including addressing the special envoy of the UN for religious freedom.

Many human rights groups - including the Wahid Institute, Human Rigths Working Group, the Setara Institute, Legal Aid Foundation in Jakarta, Kontras, the PGI, the Synod of the Churches of West Java, the Alliance of Bhinneka Tunggal, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation - support the Yc struggle . Even the daughters of former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, a true icon for the peaceful interfaith coexistence - support the national campaign against the injustices of the municipalities of Bogor. In a written statement they condemn "the revocation of the permit," considered contrary to the Constitution of 1945 and a clear violation of the law. "

Sigalingging rejects the proposal from the city of Bogor to build the church in other places because the site chosen by them is on a strategic road.

Suryadharma Ali, Minister for Religious Affairs, says he will call on the Mayor of Bogor to respect the law and the Supreme Court ruling.

Pastor Albert Patty said the new ban is a demonstration of force and abuse of power carried out by Islamic extremist groups against minority groups, thanks to such measures by public authorities.

In response to difficulty, the faithful of the Yc gathered for their prayer services on the site of the proposed building, to reaffirm their right to have a church. The police have repeatedly intervened to prevent the faithful access to the building site. Some footage of the clashes with municipal authorities of Bogor and the Islamic fundamentalist groups have been posted on the following sites:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyKsJY_mcO4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6DHJDoz0qs;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QATxmiw2JSo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUsQ6bRgTAI.

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