Bogor church runs services on the street after closure
Theresia Sufa and Hasyim Widhiarto, The Jakarta Post, Bogor/Jakarta | Tue, 04/13/2010 9:25 AM | Headlines A | A | A |
Local administrations in the country often opt to bow to pressure from anti-pluralism groups at the expense of legal certainty when it comes to church building permits.
The most recent victim of local administration weakness was the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Taman Yasmin housing complex in Bogor, West Java, as the Bogor administration withdrew the church building permit on Saturday to placate protests from residents.
The administration said they had to take such a decision following protests from nearby residents and several Islamic organizations, which joined together under the Indonesian Muslims Communication Forum (Forkami), in strongly opposing the establishment of the church.
“We are very confused with the sudden sealing off,” GKI reverend Ujang Tanusaputra said on Sunday. “For more than two years, we could not run the construction of the church smoothly as local residents continue to protest.
On Saturday evening, without prior notification, a group of officers from Bogor public order agency sealed off the entrance to church which was under construction.
After the closure, hundreds of members of the church congregation had no option except to run their Sunday service on the street in front of their sealed church.
According to Ujang, the GKI congregation obtained a building permit from Bogor municipality in July 2006.
The administration, however, retracted the permit two years later, citing endless protests from local residents against the church.
The congregation filed a lawsuit against the mayor’s decision to the Bandung Administrative Court (PTUN), which later overturned the decision. The municipality then submitted a legal appeal to the Supreme Court but once again failed to win the dispute.
“But they [the administration] never take the court’s decision into their account,” Ujang said.
Contacted separately, head of Bogor public order agency Bambang confirmed that the agency’s Sunday action to seal off the church was an order from the Bogor mayor.
Data from the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) shows that more than 10 churches have suspended services due to mob threats this year.
Last month hundreds of members of hard-line Islamic organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia’s (HTI) Bogor branch staged a rally in front of the Bogor City Council, claiming that the church construction committee had submitted faked residents’ signatures to obtain the building permit.
Earlier this month, members of the Filadelfia HKBP church congregation in Bekasi, West Java, decided to sue Regent Sa’duddin for unilaterally closing their church while under construction following protests from local Muslim residents.
According to a 2006 joint ministerial decree, a new house of worship must have the support of at least 90 congregation members and 60 local residents of different faiths.
It also has to obtain a recommendation letter from the Religious Affairs Office and the government-sponsored Regional Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB) before gaining final approval from the local administration.
Experts and activists, however, have raised their concern about how the rule on the number of signatures needed on a petition to apply for a permit to build a house of worship is applied, since the FKUB or the local administration often rejects applications if even the slightest objection is raised — particularly if those objecting are Muslims.
“That’s why I always urge those facing such problems when trying to build a house of worship to take the case to court,” Trisno Susanto, from the NGO Interfaith Dialogue Society (Madia), told The Jakarta Post recently