01/24/2011, 00.00
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Extremists demonstrate against the opening of the Yasmin church in Bogor, West Java

by Mathias Hariyadi
Indonesia’s Supreme Court ruled that Christians have the right to use a site they own for religious functions. Local authorities, who had stopped church construction in 2008, are now criticised for not implementing the court ruling, allowing Islamic extremists to patrol the site.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Islamic extremist groups are still trying to prevent the Protestant Christian Church (GKI) from opening its church at Taman Yasmin, an area in Bogor (West Java). Despite a Supreme Court ruling on 14 January authorising Protestants to use their church, extremists continue to demonstrate against it, threatening its members. They allege that Christians have been involved in forced conversions. The church is still closed and local authorities have not yet rescinded the ban order they slapped on the building.

“We have prepared two official letters, calling on Bogor major to publish the Supreme Court’s ruling for everyone to read, in print and electronic media, so that no one can take the law in their own hands,” a Church leader told AsiaNews.

The issue began in February 2008 when local authorities stopped the construction of the GKI church at Taman Yasmin in response to a complaint from the Bogor Islamic Community Association (FUI), which claimed that local Christians did not have the necessary papers to use the site as a place of worship.

After two years of legal battles, the Indonesian Supreme Court ruled on 9 December 2010 that the GKI had the right use the building for its religious functions. However, extremists rejected the sentence. FUI accused Christians of forced conversions and issued a letter calling on all Muslims in Bogor to gather in front of the Protestant church to prevent Sunday mass. So far, Bogor authorities have not yet implemented the court ruling.

A local Christian leader, who asked his name be withheld for security reason, said Christians “do not want any more lies from the government.” In fact, he wonders whether any one in Indonesia can uphold the law.

President Yudhoyono has come under harsh criticism in recent weeks from inter-faith groups who accuse him of hiding the many episodes of religious intolerance by Islamic extremists.

Stung by his critics, the president on 18 January urged religious leaders to meet his ministers to discuss the matter.

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