Indonesia: Churches Without Permits Shut Down Even as Mosques Without Them Remain Open

ICC Note: In 2012, ICC estimates that local governments in Indonesia forcibly closed at least 50 Christian places of worship. The vast majority of these were ostensibly closed for lacking a proper building permit, yet the Jakarta Globe reports in the article below that fully 85 percent of places of worship across Indonesia do not have these permits. This means that the majority of Sunni Islamic mosques in Indonesia do not have proper permits, but ICC has yet to receive a single report of one of these mosques being closed by local governments. 

04/09/2013 Indonesia (The Jakarta Globe) – The National Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday said that 85 percent of Indonesia’s houses of worship do not have building permits, with most of them being mosques.

“The majority [of houses of worship without building permits] are mosques,” Imdadun Rahmat, the deputy of chairman of the commission (Komnas HAM), said on Tuesday, as quoted by Tempo.co. “If you check, most religious buildings in villages have no building permits, even if their buildings are close to the urban ward chief.”

Imdadun noted that most religious buildings that obtained building permits were located in major cities.

Many houses of worship are built based on the needs of nearby residents, and the processes of obtaining a permit and conforming to building codes are often overlooked, he said.

Regardless, Imdadun said that rather than dismantling the buildings, the government should protect them given their importance to local populations.

Several churches have been shut down or destroyed by local governments over the past few years for not having proper building permits. The HKBP Taman Sari church in Setu, Bekasi district, was demolished last month by the Bekasi district administration. Established in 1998, the church was in the process of obtaining a building permit, but the district chief, Neneng Hasanah Yasin, decided to demolish the building amid demonstrations by the hard-line Taman Sari Islamic Peoples Forum (FUIT).

Earlier this month, the GKI Gembrong church, located in Bekasi, was sealed by the government for the same reason.

The issuance of a building permit does not guarantee a structure’s existence, though. GKI Yasmin, a protestant church in Bogor, obtained the correct license but was later stripped of it by the city’s mayor, who claimed that the church fabricated an agreement with local residents.

The Supreme Court ordered the local government to reopen the church, but the city hasn’t followed through yet.

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