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3/18/2011 Indonesia (SperoNews) – The Christian community is protesting against the failure of the central government to “guarantee religious freedom” as well as the stubbornness of officials in Bogor, a municipality in West Java, who ordered the sealing of the Yasmin Church. Pressures from Muslim fundamentalists have once more undermined the principle of the rule of law and highlighted the weakness of a country increasingly victim of extremism. Meanwhile, the three packages containing bombs were delivered yesterday to activists and moderate Muslim leaders. The bomb squad defused two of them; a third exploded, slightly wounding a number of people.
Following demonstrations by some 150 Muslim fundamentalists, Bogor authorities closed down the Yasmin Church, which is at the core of a legal battle between the local government and the local Christian community. The Synod of Indonesian Churches (PGI) called the decision an “unfriendly act”. For Rev Gomar Gultom, moving the church to another location is not a better solution because it “favours divisions among the faithful” in a society that should be “pluralistic”.
Bogor officials revoked the building permit it had issued alleging that the required signatures by local residents were “false”. A local Muslim leader added that the “Muslim community has always been opposed to the construction of the church”.
The PGI blames the stubbornness of Bogor authorities, and has called on the central government to enforce a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Yasmin Church’s legality.
Building a church in Indonesia, whether Catholic or Protestant, or any other building requires a permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan or IMB in Indonesian) as well as the signature of 60 residents in the area where it is supposed to be erected. Despite having all the right papers, the building of churches is often prevented and permits revoked by local governments under pressures from Muslim fundamentalists.
Calvin Lambe, head of the PGI chapter in West Java, blames Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto, for failing to uphold the law. For the Christian activist, the lawyers representing the Yasmin Church won in court four times. He asks then, “Why should the church’s doors stay shut?”