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Radical Muslims Halt Church Building in Indonesia

Compass News

by Samuel Rionaldo

(Compass) – At a site in the West Java town of Cikarang Baru where a Christian church was under construction, there used to be a banner that read, “This property is sealed off by Muslims.”

The banner may be gone, but in its place local government officials have pasted onto a wooden plank a notice that reads, “All construction activities of the Graha Bintang Timur church building at Kawasan Jababeka II are temporarily stopped.”

The notice is signed by Bekasi district secretary Dr. H.R. Heri Koesaeri. Islamic displays of displeasure with the prospective church began on September 19, when 500 people from nine hard-line Islamic organizations shouted in unison and raised banners against construction of the church building. Some 200 of them came back and demonstrated against the project 10 days later.

On October 3, again they returned and demanded that the project be sealed off from further development. “There should not be a single church built in the Cikarang area,” shouted demonstrators. They also demanded that local authorities forcibly prohibit anyone daring to continue construction.

The company that manages the industrial park, PT. Jababeka Tbk., made the site available for building the GPdI Kalvari church facility, according to the congregation’s pastor, Benny Assa. The chief of the Bekasi district, Dr. H.M. Saleh Manaf, has designated the Jababeka Industrial Area for building the church, he said. Fulfilling all official requirements, however, was not enough to fend off Muslim opposition.

A spokeperson for PT. Jababeka acknowledged that the site was already designated as a church location for hundreds of area Christians who do not have a place for worship. Christians of various denominations in the area have been using shops, buildings, or homes for worship.

According to a leader of one of the area Islamic groups that opposes construction of the church, Habib Novel Al-Habsyi of the Salafy Islamic Movement, “The building of a church in the area is ridiculous when there is no one in the Jababeka Industrial Area who is a Christian.” He claimed that all of the people living in the area are Muslim.

He claimed that people were manipulated into signing approval of a Christian facility in the area, and that for this reason alone he believes that the church’s building permit should be annulled.

“We have met with the district secretary,” Al-Habsyi said, “and he gave us this written notice to stop building, which we have put up on the site to replace the two banners which we hung there earlier.”

But the Bekasi district chief, Manaf, told Compass that the recommendation for the construction of the church building had been properly filed.

“If there is a group of people who opposed my recommendation, then they are opposing the government’s policy, and they will be facing the law,” he said.

At a site where a mosque is under construction in the Cikarang area, a banner proclaiming opposition to the church building in Jababeka Industrial Park carries the acronyms or names of several Islamic organizations: FPI, GMIS, FUI, Hizbullah Front, Ababil Brigade, Forkammi, FKMMB, and KISDI.