ICC Note: The procedures for establishing a church in Indonesia are extremely difficult, and Muslim groups oppose any Christian churches that succeed in overcoming those obstacles. ICC has reported on other churches that not only had been able to register their churches but won Indonesian Supreme Court victories in support of their cause. Unless President Widodo (‘Jokowi’) steps in to enforce these judgments and to restrain radical Islamic groups, however, there will be no freedom of religion for non-Muslims in Indonesia.
By Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta
08/10/2015 Indonesia (UCA News)
More than a thousand Muslim demonstrators staged a rally in an Indonesian city Aug. 10, urging local authorities to revoke a building permit for a Catholic church.
The protesters in a strongly Muslim area of North Bekasi, near Jakarta, claimed the leaders of the St. Clara Parish Church obtained a building permit through improper means.
“We want the mayor to revoke the building permit … as it is invalid,” said protester Ustadz Ismail Ibrahim, a Muslim leader with the Islamic Friendship Association of Bekasi. The group includes several Islamic organizations and boarding houses in the area.
Local authorities granted the church a building permit in July. However, churches across Indonesia have struggled with highly restrictive legislation that critics say makes it difficult to obtain the proper permits.
In 2006, the religious affairs and home affairs ministries issued legislation that laid out onerous requirements to build places of worship. Church officials, for example, are obligated to provide a list of names and signatures of 90 worshippers and get signed support from at least 60 local residents along with approval by a village head.
Ibrahim claims the parish church violated these rules.
“They manipulated the data and forced local residents to sign on a paper with no letterhead,” he said. “It was proved when we asked the local residents and found out that they weren’t aware of it.”
However, Rasnius Pasaribu, a secretary at the parish church, maintained that the church had met all necessary requirements.
“We have gone through all procedures. All administrative processes are done. But they urged [local authorities] to revoke the building permit,” he told ucanews.com.