11/13/2009, 00.00
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West Java, court to decide on construction of Church of St Mary

by Mathias Hariyadi
A team of lawyers filed the appeal against the revocation of the permit for construction of the Catholic place of worship. Flagrant violation of human rights. A Muslim woman among the lawyers looking after the interests of the diocese.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Catholics of West Java are lodging a case in court against the revocation of the permit to build the Catholic church of Saint Mary, in the district of Purwakarta. The lawyer Liona M. Supriatna confirmed the news to AsiaNews that 'the document has already been sent to the local administrative court (Ptun). "Now we are waiting for the date of our hearing - he adds - to put the matter to the courts".

The church of Saint Mary is at the centre of a dispute among the faithful, the authorities and the local Muslim community. On 19 October last year the administration revoked the building’s permit issued on 8 April 2009 with a measure adopted unanimously by the Interfaith Dialogue Forum Agency (Fkub) of Purwakarta. The withdrawal of clearance is the result of protests triggered by members of the Front for the Defence of Islam (FPI), who have denounced alleged "irregularities" in the issuing of permits.

The process for building a church in Indonesia - Catholic or Protestant - is very complicated and it may take from two to seven years before obtaining all authorizations required by law. The procedure is governed by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a type of permit that allows for a construction site to be opened and is issued by local authorities. The story gets more complicated if it is a place of Christian worship: it must be cleared by at least 60 residents in the area where the building is to be constructed and by the local Group for interfaith dialogue. And even if permission is obtained, "unspecified reasons" can take over that lead officials to block the projects. Often under pressure from the Muslim community or radical Islamic movements in the name of religious fanaticism.

Liona M. Supriatna, a lawyer who looks after the interests of the diocese, speaks of "totally baseless accusations”. The diocese has completed the process required for the issuing of documents following the procedures of the law, and obtained the "support of local residents." According to the Interfaith Dialogue Forum Agency (Fkub), the church of Saint Mary obtained only 45 positive opinions instead of the more than 60 required by law.

The lawyer points to the Indonesian Constitution, which stipulates, among basic human rights, "freedom of worship and practice of faith." "Every obstacle – he comments - which is interposed by law, should be considered a serious violation of human rights." The team called upon to plead the Catholics case in court  also includes Sentosa Sembiring, Nyan Wangs, A. Joni Minulyo, R.B. Budi Prastowo, Andreas D. Sukman, Salome Ginting, and Hj. Efran Hemy, the only woman lawyer, of Muslim faith, of the group.

Until the case is discussed in court, local politicians say they are "in the middle of a dilemma" over a very sensitive issue. "If the church is built with our approval and support - says Muhammad Rifai, an official in the district of Purwakarta - we will suffer pressures from members of the FPI. When the IMB was revoked, the Church announced that it will appeal and we are ready for the challenge".

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