Armed Mob Blocks Christians in Indonesia from Church Construction | Persecution

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Armed Mob Blocks Christians in Indonesia from Church Construction

ICC Note: Indonesia has long been regarded by the international community as a shining example of a religiously pluralistic and tolerance Muslim-majority democracy. Unfortunately, that reputation is being increasingly tarnished by radical Islamic groups targeting Christians and other religious minorities for demonstrations, threats, and outright violence. On Thursday of last week, armed radicals stormed the construction site of a new church on the Indonesian island of South Sumatra, blocking Christians from continuing work on the building. Since the start of December, ICC has tracked more than 10 incidents of churches forcibly closed in the country by radicalized Islamic groups. 

2/21/2014 Indonesia (AsiaNews) – Late yesterday afternoon, hundreds of armed men, led by local Muslim leaders, stormed and forcibly occupied a plot of land owned by the Indonesian Christian community Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP). The incident occurred in the village of Talang Kelapa , located in the sub-district of Alang -alang Lebar in the regency of Palembang, South Sumatra province. The raid was motivated by an attempt to build a place of worship. In fact, on February 17 the ceremony of laying the first stone was held, amid protests from local residents. A decision that has created discontent among Muslims, who organized a task force to occupy the land – two acres in all – and to send a strong message to HKBP leaders: churches are not allowed in the area.

The process for building a church in Indonesia – Catholic or Protestant – is quite complicated and may take five to ten years to obtain all permits required by law. The procedure is governed by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a species of written protocol that allows for construction to commence and is issued by local authorities. The story gets more complicated if it is a place of Christian worship: permission must be obtained from a number of residents in the area where the building is to be constructed and the local Group for Interfaith Dialogue. And even if the permission is granted “unspecified reasons” can come into play that will lead officials to block the projects. Often, this occurs after pressure from the Muslim community or radical Islamic movements.

Since 2011, the Christian community has initiated procedures to obtain the necessary permits, without any concrete results. Moreover, the lack IMB provides a legal foothold to the Muslim majority, who can enforce breaches and irregularities in the procedures to stop the building and forcibly occupy land. Junaidi Alhafidz, a local Muslim leader who headed the mob in fact declared the raid was motivated by “the Hkbp’s lack of IMB permit” reflecting the fact that “the authorities in Palembang have not yet authorized the building”. He also reiterated opposition “to the construction of a church”.

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