ICC Note: This is a familiar scenario for many Christian churches in Indonesia: after a lengthy process involving many obstacles, the church receives an IMB (permit allowing the establishment of a church), but an outside group of militant Islamic agitators come to the area and voice opposition to the church, applying pressure to local politicians to close it down, despite the support of the church by most local Muslims. The government must stop these Islamic militants from imposing their own law.
By Mathias Hariyadi
08/11/2015 Indonesia (AsiaNews.it)
Islamic extremist groups have succeded in blocking the construction of the parish church of St. Clare in the District of Bekasi (West Java), after a massive demonstration that lasted all day yesterday.
The protesters claim that the Catholic community does not have the necessary building permit. When the mayor of Bekasi, Rahmat Effendi, showed them the permit, they accused him of having forged it on the back of bribes. The Bekasi authorities have staunchly rejected the charges, but for the moment, Effendi has advised Christians to stop the construction of the church. To “minimize tensions” Catholics will celebrate Sunday Mass at a building owned by the Army.
Since 2006, it has become increasingly complicated to obtain permits to build churches (IMB, Izin Mendirikan Bangunan). According to a joint decree issued by the Ministry for Religious Affairs and the Ministry for the Interior, any project for a church must have the signature of at least 90 worshipers as well as the signature of at least 60 local residents and be approved by the village chief.
St. Clare’s parish – which had been waiting for its permit for 17 years – had obtained all the necessary signatures and was given the go ahead on 28 July, but since then, groups of Islamic extremists – apparently not local residents – demanded that the foundations of the church building be dismantled. Murtado Ali, one of the protesters said that no church should be built in North Bekasi, a city that only consists of “pious Muslims”.
“We – he adds – demand that the mayor (who issued the IMB) revoke the permit given that the employees of the municipality were bribed to produce it”.
Emmanuel Dapa Loka, one of the parishioners and a writer, told AsiaNews: “I was personally involved in the process of obtaining IMB. The Committee for the construction of the church diligently obeyed all legal procedures. All documents, including signatures of the neighbors were filled in with professionalism; their letters of support were prepared under the guidance of the local ministry for religious affairs, and have received the official seal@.
“Representatives of the interfaith board of control – he continues – and representatives of the Bekasi Ministry of Religious Affairs came to visit the place where the church will be built” it will serve at least 9 thousand faithful. For all this, Emmanuel concludes that the demonstrators allegations are false. They are a cliché of similar complaints used by extremist groups to stop the development of the Christian community.