Bogor Yasmin Church controversy: authorities “manipulating” videos to slander Christians
by Mathias Hariyadi
The mayor calls in security forces to stop prayers. The videotapes of the incident are manipulated in order to blame Christians for the violence. Nahdlatul Ulama comes out on the Christian side. The Wahid Institute calls on the president to remove local leaders and uphold religious freedom.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The mayor of Bogor, a town in West Java, has banned Christian worshippers from using the road near the Yasmin Church for prayer. The construction of the church is at the centre of a fierce dispute between local Christians and municipal authorities. When police moved in to disperse the crowd, Christians reacted by protesting. A clash ensued between the two sides. The Wahid Institute, which is named after former Indonesian President Gus Dur Wahid and is dedicated to interfaith dialogue, has accused Bogor leaders of manipulating news reports and video images of the incident in order to push Muslims to punish Christians.
For months, the Yasmin Church has been the object of a clear violation of the law and of religious freedom by the local mayor who, disregarding the constitution and a ruling by the Supreme Court in favour of Christians, has prevented them from using their unfinished place of worship.
Last Sunday, he sent security forces against the faithful who had gathered for Sunday services on the church site. A row followed between parishioners and police agents, which the mayor used as a pretext to ban Christians from praying on the road near the Christian place of worship.
Rumadi, an activist with the Wahid Institute in Jakarta, points the finger at President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a lack of “political will” to end the hostility against Bogor Christians, and this despite the powers at his disposal. The president can in fact suspend Mayor Diani Budiarto for failing to uphold a decision by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the application to build the church was done in accordance with the law and had all the right construction permits.
Contacted by AsiaNews about last Sunday’s disturbance, Bona Sigalingging, a spokesperson for the Yasmin Church, said that the faithful had been together for ten minutes to pray when security forces moved in to disperse them by force. The Sunday before, 2 October, police seized the church’s ceremonial bread and wine.
Indonesia’s most important and moderate Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, supports the Christian community’s right to freedom of religion. Its leaders have written to President Yudhoyono asking for his direct intervention to settle the issue and protect the rights of Christians.
However, extremist Muslims have come out in support of Bogor’s mayor and oppose the construction of the church.