West Java: Protestant church blocked
by Mathias Hariyadi

The Purwakarta district regent said that the place of worship had not obtained building permits. According to the opposition and local residents, other solutions were possible pending administrative requirements.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Anne Ratna Mustika, head of the regency in Purwakarta, West Java Province, yesterday blocked the use of a place of worship used for weekly services by the local Protestant Church. 

Her decision was released through a video message in which the official explained that the closure of the temporary church in the village of Cigelam was necessary because it would cause 'inconvenience' among the locals, especially the predominantly Muslim population. 

During the public post, Mustika - at the centre of a media storm in recent weeks after divorcing her husband, the district chief before his ex-wife - added that 'the church, owned by the Simalungun Protestant Christian Church (Gkps) in Purwakarta, has not yet obtained the legal building permit' known as Izin Mendirikan Bangunan or Imb.

The local governor went on to point out that according to the latest government building regulations, there are two things that the church has not yet fulfilled: 'The permit documents and community approval are missing. The implementation of the decision was entrusted to the agency of the Purwakarta officials.

Local Christians claim that authorities like Mustika have no tolerance for religious minorities. 'We feel we are not being treated fairly,' said a Christian resident who wished to remain anonymous. "As district chief Mustika should let Christians exercise their faith undisturbed while completing all administrative requirements," added another resident.

Imelda Berwanty Purba, president of the Central Leadership Council of the Indonesian Solidarity Party, said that 'the regent of Purwakarta can issue a temporary permit for a house of worship. If there are requirements that have not been met, she should propose dialogue and deliberations to obtain an Imb, not seal' the temporary church.