Islamists stop construction of shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary near Yogyakarta
by Mathias Hariyadi

Catholic leader and shrine promoter Cahyo Binuko receives threats and is the victim of intimidation. Local authorities issued a building permit months ago, but local extremists have tried to stop the construction, accusing Catholics of playing games with local residents’ minds. Now they are putting pressures on the authorities to withdraw the building permit.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Islamic extremists have undertaken a campaign of intimidation against a Catholic family in Yogyakarta province, Indonesia, to stop the construction of a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

In recent days, some members of a fundamentalist group stormed the house of Cahyo Binuko, a Catholic leader in Gunung Kidul District, ordered him to stop the work, even though he has a building permit issued by the authorities.

The Binuko family has been involved for some time in building a place of worship dedicated to the Virgin on their own land. According to the promoters, the Giri Wening shrine would be open to everyone and would promote worship and prayer.

The project began in September 2009, accelerating in 2012, following the visit of the former Archbishop of Semarang Johannes Pujasumarta. The area became popular in March of that year, when dozens of Islamic extremists set fire to the shrine site bringing everything to a halt.

Stubbornly, Catholic leaders, led by Cahyo Binuko, continued the project. In February, they obtained the building permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan, IMB) from local authorities.

Building non-Muslim places of worship in Indonesia is complicated and may take five to ten years before permits are issued.

This is even more difficult for Christians who need to get the signatures of (at least) 60residents in a particular area, plus the local chief’s consent, before they can apply.

Often "unspecified reasons" lead officials, under pressure from radical Islamic movements, to stop projects.

This is why Christian leaders tend to remain silent over building permits, taking a cautious approach that is often not enough to prevent attacks and intimidation by Muslim extremists.

The latest episode unfolded Wednesday of last week when a mob forced its way into the house of Binuko family, accusing them of playing games with the minds of local residents in order to build their shrine.

Under pressure from extremists, local leaders and police chief forced Cahyo Binuko to sign a statement saying that he would stop building the shrine until the authorities ruled on the building permit.

Meanwhile, radical groups have already contacted local officials to get them to withdraw the permit.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Catholics number seven millions or about 3 per cent. In Jakarta, they are about 3.6 per cent. They play an active role in society, the country’s development, and emergency situations.