ICC NOTE: According to World Watch Monitor, Islamist vigilante groups have sealed off another Christian church in Indonesia as they are accusing the church of falsifying signatures and identification to gain building permits. Local government officials approved the construction and opening of the church as they deemed the signatures to be valid. Yet, even though the congregation followed Indonesian law they remain in fear as Islamist groups continue to harass them and stop them from entering the church. Local police forces have done nothing to stop the vigilante groups as the closure of the church was conducted in front of the police commander. Apparently even though Indonesian law protects freedom of religion, local government has approved the church, and Supreme Court cases have upheld other church permits, if an Islamist group like the Islamic Forum Community (FUI) wishes to stop a church they don’t require much effort.
04/12/2016 Bekasi, Indonesia (World Watch Monitor) – An Islamist group in Indonesia has, in front of a local police commander, sealed off a brand new church, torn down its sign and demanded that the local mayor cancel its permit. The Santa Clara Church in Bekasi, a heavily-populated commuter city to the east of the capital, Jakarta, only opened on 7 March.
The Islamic Forum Community (FUI) and other Islamist organisations have been protesting since the church obtained its permit in July 2015, claiming its leaders had used false identity cards to get it.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has started an appeal on the church’s behalf, and asked for supporters to send letters to ten top Indonesian leaders, including the President. The AHRC added that it will write a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The AHRC noted that local law enforcement agencies failed to intervene on the church’s behalf, leaving the congregants in “fear and uncertainty”.
The FUI complained that the church had been built in a community where the majority are Muslims and where Islamic boarding schools also exist. However, the Bekasi mayor refused to annul the church’s permit, saying it had fulfilled all the legal requirements necessary for construction. Indonesia’s Minister of Religion supported the mayor’s decision.
“Despite this, law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the Santa Clara Church congregants; in fact, it seems the agencies have no will or policy to enforce the law against vigilantes. As a result, the church congregation lives under pressure and intimidation,” wrote the AHRC in its letter of appeal.
The AHRC called upon the local police to “take a strong stance” against the FUI and “ensure that the government guarantees protection to the Santa Clara congregation to practise their religion”.
“Furthermore, the government should revise the law on the establishment of worship places without any discrimination among the various religions and beliefs that exist in Indonesia,” the letter concluded.
“In the last decade, the existence of intolerant vigilante groups has become a serious problem in Indonesia,” wrote the AHRC in its letter to supporters. “More importantly, the country’s law enforcement does not seem to be willing or committed to enforcing the law against such groups, despite their actions being in violation of the right to freedom of religion and belief guaranteed in the 1945 Indonesian Constitution. Article 29, Paragraph 2 requires the State to ‘ensure the freedom of every citizen to choose their own religion and to worship according to their religion and belief itself’.”
Indonesia is No. 43 on the 2016 Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.