03/10/2011, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Yogyakarta: Muslim leader gets Protestant church to close

by Mathias Hariyadi
A Muslim guru accuses Christian clergyman of proselytising, describing his church as illegal and without a building permit. In reality, the pastor is in favour of interfaith dialogue, funding the education of five Muslim children without trying to convert them. Sources tell AsiaNews that the whole thing was a setup by the self-styled Muslim leader, even though no one knows who is or where he comes from.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The statement by a Muslim fundamentalist leader, whose name and background remain unknown, has led to the closure of a Protestant church in Sleman Regency (district), in Yogyakarta province. For the Muslim guru, the church had to close (using pressures and intimidation) because the building, allegedly, did not have a building permit and its pastor had engaged in proselytising among young Muslims. The reality is quite different. Local sources insist that the Christian clergyman was an advocate of interfaith dialogue and had provided financial aid to five Muslim children without any intention of converting them.

The whole thing began in a village in Sleman Regency on the island of Java. The Pentecostal church of El-Shaddai (Gereja Pantekosta di Indonesia, GPdI) under Rev Nico Lomboan STH was forced to close down after a close-door meeting between the clergyman and local officials.

The latter acted following pressures by a local political leader and a Muslim leader, known locally as Turmudi. The latter used inflammatory language to rouse crowds, with the result that the province put a stop to Christian activities, and neon signs in front of the church were removed.

The Muslim guru claimed that the place of worship lacked a proper building permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan or IMB in Indonesian), normally issued by local authorities. Christians who want to build a church must also obtain the signatures of 60 local residents as well as the green light of the local agency for interfaith dialogue. Even then, having all the right papers is no guarantee that they will get their church. Local authorities are often forced by Muslim fundamentalists to reject permit applications by Christians or back track after granting them.

Rev Lomboan said that he had applied to all the right authorities “as far back as 1995”. In the area, Christians have been active since 1990. “Nothing happened until December 2010 when construction [of the church] was almost complete,” he explained.

Muslims and Christians were involved in interfaith dialogue and he had developed a good reputation, providing financial assistance to 11 students. “Five are Muslims,” he notes, “and no one tried to convert them. In fact, they are still Muslim.”

However, on 16 February of this year, a group of mothers, roused by the Muslim guru, forced their way into his house, demanding he stop his activities. The next day, the local Regency council summoned Rev Lomboan. The meeting ended with the closure of his church and the termination of all its activities. The money he had provided to Muslim children was treated as “evidence of Christian proselytising.”

Speaking to AsiaNews on condition of anonymity, local sources said that “the controversial Muslim guru, Turmudi, is not from Sleman. All school agencies in the area have no idea who he might be and from where he might come.”

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