12/15/2022, 12.16
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Cilegon: Unknown persons erect wall to block construction of Protestant church

by Mathias Hariyadi

The perpetrators are currently unknown, but local residents believe it was fundamentalist Muslim groups that erected the barricade. The building permit had been obtained in 2004, but with the change of administration the commitments made were ignored.


Cilegon (AsiaNews) - In recent days a wall has been erected preventing access to land owned by the Protestant Christian Church Batak (Hkbp), on which the congregation had obtained permission from the previous local administration to build a church.

At the moment, it is not known who erected the barricade in the town of Cilegon, Banten province, but Christian residents believe it is a group of intransigent Muslims.

"We are in compliance with the legal permit," Jamister Manullang, construction manager of the Maranatha church, told a press conference, referring to what is commonly called Imb (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan) in Indonesia. "But as many people have seen, there have always been many technical 'obstacles'," he added.

The need for a church stems from the large number of worshippers in Cilegon: "Our Hkbp congregation has exceeded 3,900 people," yet Christians have to travel to the town of Serang every week for Eucharistic celebrations, facing a 50 km journey by car.

Public transport fares, on the other hand, are very expensive for families. "However, not everyone has their own car," churchgoers pointed out. "By now, the Hkbp church in Serang can no longer accommodate all the worshippers," Simanullang explained.

In 2004, an agreement had been reached between the leaders of the Protestant Church and the mayor of Cilegon: after an exchange of property between the Church and a private company, the municipality granted the building permit. But as has happened before in Indonesia, with the arrival of a new mayor, the commitments made by the previous administration were ignored.

In the last 10 years, local politics in Indonesia has often relied on identity elements. Many politicians, hoping to be elected, have courted Muslim extremist groups by targeting members of religious minorities, blocking access to places of worship or causing unjustified administrative delays.

The parish church of Saint Bernadette Ciledug, in the city of Tangerang - also in the province of Banten -, for example, was repeatedly blocked by local fundamentalists despite the fact that it had all its documents in order. After a long legal procedure, a local court issued a ruling revoking the Imb, the building permit.

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