City authorities revoked the building permit 10 years ago. Since then, the Indonesian Christian Church has been embroiled in a legal battle to reclaim the building. Last Sunday, Bogor Mayor Bima announced that a new plot of land had been offered to settle the issue, but Christians want court rulings to be respected.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The legal dispute with the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI[*]) over its Yasmin Church compound is over, this according to Bima Arya Sugiarto, Mayor of Bogor (West Java), a claim disputed by Bona Sigalingging, the Church’s lawyer.
In a recent statement, Bogor’s mayor announced that city authorities had granted the GKI new land to build their church. Last Sunday, Mr Bima boasted that he had put an end to a conflict with the local Protestant Church, which had festered for more than 10 years pitting local Christians against Muslims.
For Sigalingging, the matter will be settled only when court orders recognising that the Yasmin church had proper building permits are fully implemented. Instead, the City of Bogor wants to give the GKI some 1,668 square metres of land in another part of the city to build its place of worship.
However, building a church in Indonesia is very complicated and can take between five to 10 years before all the permits are granted. The procedure requires a building permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan or IMB in Indonesian), released by local authorities, plus the agreement of a certain number of residents living near the site of the would-be church as well as the support of the local interfaith dialogue group.
In past years, Bogor authorities have often responded to the demands of Islamist groups against the country's religious minorities. In 2008, they issued an injunction against the Yasmin Church, following protests by radical groups opposed the enlargement of the Christian place of worship.
Eventually, the Provincial Administrative Court in Bandung ruled in favour of the Church. The Supreme Court did the same in 2010, ordering the City to rescind the injunction.
Despite such orders, Bima's predecessor, Diani Budiarto, revoked the Yasmin church building permit in 2011. Since then, the church compound has remained off-limits by city order.
During a virtual press conference, Muhammad Isnur of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation said that Mayor Bima’s offer is an example of a poor leadership by local authorities.
“This is an abuse of power,” Isnur explained. “The mayor has shown no respect for the Supreme Court and other state agencies. Granting new land is not the best solution to end this example of intolerance in Bogor.”
[*] Gereja Kristen Indonesia.