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Religious Rights Violations in Indonesia Expected to Continue as Elections Approach

ICC Note:

From 2007 to 2013, Christian churches suffered 392 religious rights violations, mainly churches closures and attacks, according to Jakarta Christian Communications Forum. Radical Islamist have been largely responsible for closing or attacking churches using lack of building permits as a pretext. Indonesian government and current Indonesian president have been turning a blind eye on the attacks for years. However, the article argues that neither of the presidential candidates is expected to fight the deterioration of religious freedom.

06/16/2014 Indonesia (Morning Star News) – The average of 56 incidents of religious rights violations churches suffered annually in Indonesia over the past seven years is not expected to abate following elections next month, sources said.

Jakarta Christian Communications Forum records show churches suffered 392 religious rights violations, mainly closures and attacks, from 2007 to 2013, and sources said neither of the candidates vying for the presidency of Indonesia on July 9 is expected to arrest the deterioration of religious freedom begun during that period.

Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra, the Great Indonesia Movement Party, is beholden to the country’s largest Islamic party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), as well as the United Development Party (PPP), and both reject moderate Islam and object to protections for minority faiths. His opponent, Joko Widodo of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI-P), is also said to be under pressure to win the favor of Muslim extremists, although the party ideology is based on Pancasila, or unity and social justice for Indonesia’s various peoples.

Islamic extremists have been largely responsible for using lack of building permits as a pretext for closing or attacking churches since the passage of Indonesia’s Joint Ministerial Decree of 2006, which made requirements for obtaining such permits nearly impossible for most new churches. Even when small, new churches were able to meet the requirement of obtaining 90 signatures of approval from congregation members and 60 from area households of different religions, they have often met with delays or lack of response from officials.

The Rev. Togardo Siburian of Bandung, West Java Province, told Morning Star News that churches in the province often receive threats, especially those that do not have building permits and are not able to pay “security” money to intolerant groups. Most religious rights violations against Christians take place in West Java, he said.

“Closure of homes or offices being used as places of worship is carried out by radical groups who deliberately visit places of worship to verify whether these places have a construction permit,” he said. “Places that do not have this permit could be closed by force or by using the government’s hand. The upcoming presidential elections this year troubles residents of West Java.”

Most churches in West Java do not have a permit to build houses of worship, he said.

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