06/04/2010, 00.00
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West Java: Christians bring their protest to the UN after their Church is closed

by Mathias Hariyadi
Municipal authorities want to prevent Christians from conducting any public activity. After unsuccessfully seeking remedy with a number of Indonesian agencies, Yasmin Church members are launching an appeal to the United Nations for discrimination and persecution.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Members of the Indonesian Christian Church (aka Yasmin Church, Gereja Kristen Indonesia in Indonesian) are preparing to appeal to the United Nations against a decision by the authorities in the West Java City of Bogor to close down their church. Municipal authorities have been trying to prevent Christians from expressing their faith publicly in response to Muslim extremists. Christians have argued instead that they have a right to profess their faith wherever they live, even if it means praying in the streets.

The decision was taken yesterday. Revs Ujang Tanusaputra and Diah Renata Anggraeni, leaders of the Yasmin Church, reiterated in a press conference that Bogor chief had issued a valid building permit (MB) in 2006 authorising the GKI to build a church with associated facilities. However, Bogor municipal authorities later began discriminating them and on 12 March issued an order to stop all Church activity.

“On 11 and 15 April and 9 and 24 May, they forced our parishioners to hold our weekly religious service outside,” Rev Tanusaputra. “We have decided to appeal to the United Nations after we failed to elicit action from the appropriate Indonesian agencies.”

Before that, Bogor authorities suspended the building permit, which the GKI challenged before a court. The Administrative Tribunal in Bandung ruled that the suspension was illegal. In March 2010, the Church applied again to resume construction, said Thomas Wadudara in a statement.

Rini, a member of the Church, told AsiaNews, “this is a clear example of grave discrimination against a minority group.”

Several human rights groups back the ruling. Alexander Paulus, of the Human Rights Working Group, said, “Bogor officials not only destroyed legal property of the Church in the compound and inside the building but they also disrupted the site where church goers hold their services in order to prevent them from fulfilling their religious beliefs.”

The church under construction is located in the so-called Yasmin Garden complex, an area of 1,700 m2 where Christians have built other buildings, at least until the suspension order of 12 March.

Bogor City officials turned against the Church after a series of protests by Muslim extremist groups, like the Hisbut Tahrir Indonesian and the Islamic Defender Front, who accuse the Christians of proselytising, and are opposed to any construction or public display of the Christian faith.

At the end of April, thousands of extremists attacked another Christian complex, setting it on fire. They are opposed to the construction of a Christian educational centre, accusing those behind the project of actually planning to build a place of prayer.

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