Christian family in Bandung blackmailed to bury loved ones
by Mathias Hariyadi

The administrators of the Cikadut cemetery asked a family to pay US$ 275 to bury a relative who died from COVID-19. The case came to light thanks to complaints posted on social media. For Father Rusbani, “extortion is shameful”.

Jakarta (Indonesia) – It is harder for Christians to obtain space for burials in public cemeteries. Unless they are willing to pay large sums of money.

The latest extortion case occurred a few days ago and involved a Christian family in Bandung (West Java), who were told to pay four million rupees (US$ 275) in order to be allowed to bury a relative who had died from COVID-19.

The family, who did not have that money, tried to negotiate with the administrators of the Cikadut public cemetery in order to get the money down to 2.8 million rupees (US$ 195), but to no avail. Those in charge of the cemetery said that non-Muslim families had paid more to bury their dearly departed.

The head of the local anti-COVID-19 task force Ema Sumarna described the demand imposed upon non-Muslim families as an “illegal tax” since funerals and burials for coronavirus victims are paid by the city administration.

West Java Governor Ridwan today issued a statement of apology and promised to report the case to the police, adding that Muslim families have also been subjected to this kind of racket.

The story became public only yesterday after a resident mentioned it on his social media, but similar cases have also occurred in other places in Indonesia.

Blackmail and corruption at the Cikadut cemetery go back a long way.

Koerniatmanto Soetoprawiro, professor of law at the Catholic University of Parahyangan in Bandung, explained that Cikadut started out as a Chinese cemetery. “It has existed since Indonesia was under Dutch colonial rule.”

“Cikadut is a high-profile cemetery and has a most panoramic view,” he explained. “We can expect that in such an important place for Chinese people, illegal practices by those in charge will take place,” he told AsiaNews.

But what worries him most is that this issue was not adequately addressed by local authorities until it made it onto social media.

Father Iwan Rusbani, a priest in Bandung, considers this very important. “It is good that this story ended up on social media and was then picked up by mainstream media.”

“Extortion is shameful, especially when you ask for an extra and illegal payment at a time of mourning. It is even worse because it is done on a confessional basis.”