INDONESIA: Churches forced out of premises by protestors and local authorities
Pastor Palti Panjaitan once again faced an angry mob of radical Muslims this Sunday as he tried to gather his congregation together for service. The mob brought loudspeakers and blasted music at the congregation to prevent the service from taking place and threatened the worshipers. The church has regularly faced opposition from radical Islamist groups despite having all of the necessary permits to operate. In May, Pastor Palti’s church received international media coverage when a mob threw bags of urine and other objects at the congregation. ICC met with Pastor Palti in October and is working on providing support to his church.
11/10/2012 Indonesia (Christian Solidarity Worldwide Hong Kong)- Muslim protesters have again blocked a Protestant church from holding Sunday services in front of their place of worship in Bekasi district, West Java.
A spokesman for HKBP, the Batak Society Christian Church of Philadelphia, said they had to call off the service after scores of protesters gathered to stop them worshipping.
“They were there an hour or so before we were to start our service. They brought loudspeakers and played very loud music. They also threatened us,” said the Reverend Palti Panjaitan. He said he had tried to reason with the protesters, who included women and children, but to no avail. Police who were there “told us to cancel the service to prevent any violence,” he said. “By doing so, however, they violated our constitutional right.”
At a protest in May, the congregation was subjected to hate speech and death threats during a service marking Ascension Day at their half-built church. HKBP has been trying to get permission to build a church in the district after submitting an application in 2007.
In the case concerning GKI Yasmin Church, after meeting with members of a local jihadist group earlier this year, Indonesia’s Interior Minister and local Bogor City authorities ordered the church to relocate to an undeveloped plot of land some five miles from the land and building they already owned.
Despite lawsuits, petitions, and formal protests filed by the church with Indonesia’s Justice Ministry, a 2011 Indonesian Supreme Court ruling that the church could reopen, and having the necessary local permits for operation, local officials are ordering the church to move.
The church building has been closed since Mayor Diani Budiarto ordered it sealed in April 2010, claiming that the church had violated city ordinances and did not have the necessary permits. Since the forced closure, church members have been meeting in front of the presidential palace in protest.
Christian leaders say local governments across Indonesia are appeasing the predominantly Muslim population by putting complex and difficult requirements on churches to obtain building and occupancy permits. The permits are very difficult to obtain.