03/09/2011, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Yasmin church in Bogor could be shut down and moved

by Mathias Hariyadi
Bogor municipal authorities justify their decision by saying it would end Christian-Muslim confrontation. To do so, they are prepared to violate a Supreme Court ruling that, after ten years of legal battle, authorised Christians to use their building as a place of worship.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The authorities in Bogor (West Java) want to move the Taman Yasmin Protestant Church from its present location to avoid further clashes between Christians and Muslims, sources tell AsiaNews, and this for security reasons. However, the decision is in violation of the Supreme court ruling of 14 January, whereby Christians are granted the right to finish the building they had started to build and to use it as a place of worship. Then again, local authorities want Christians to give up the right to the land as granted by the Supreme Court, which would give them the power to seize the land at any time.

For years, the Yasmin church has been the target of attacks and violence by Muslims who want it shut down, this despite the fact Christians have all the papers in order to open it. Last Sunday, the Bogor municipality was forced to step back from its earlier opposition and unseal the building to allow local Christians to celebrate Mass inside the building. Still, they had to force their way through a police security barrier (pictured) to get in. Soon afterwards, more protests by extremist Muslim groups led municipal authorities to ban access to the building again.

“Such proposals do not meet with our fundamental demand, namely that the Bogor municipality should abide by the ruling of the Indonesian Supreme Court,” said Bona Sigalingging, a lawyer for the local Christian community. “If implemented, it would be a serious setback for the Christian community, which would have to start from scratch again to collect signatures from local residents, apply for a building permit and obtain an authorisation to celebrate Mass.”

Building a church in Indonesia, both Catholic and Protestant, requires a permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan in Indonesian) issued by local authorities.

For Christian groups, the matter is complicated by the obligation to get the signatures of 60 local residents to accept a Christian place of worship as well as the green light of the local agency for inter-faith dialogue. This can take years.

What is more, getting all the signatures, permits and authorisations may not be enough because local Muslim fundamentalists and fanatics tend to object to the mere presence of churches and turn up the pressure on local government officials.

For example, the members of the Taman Yasmin Church had obtained the required signatures in 2001, but had to wait until 2006 for the building permit.

In February 2008, local authorities in Bogor bowed to pressures from the Bogor Islamic Community Association (FUI) and put a stop to the construction of the new church, claiming that the Christian community did not have all the necessary authorisations for a place of worship.

After two years of legal wrangling, the Indonesian Supreme Court ruled on 9  December 2010 that Christians were duly authorised to build and use the building for religious purposes. However, Muslim extremists continue to oppose the building. In fact, the FUI accuse Christians of forced conversions.

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