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12/05/2019 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – Rev. Tigor Yunus Sitorus from the Immanuel Pentecostal Christian Church in Indonesia (GKPI) in Sedayu district, Bantul regency, sued the regent of Bantul to court over cancellation of the Building Permit (IMB) for the church.

ICC reports that in July, following protests from local residents, the regent of Bantul H. Suharsono officially revoked and canceled the IMB for the church, stripping its congregation’s right to conduct worship services at the building.

According to Voice of America’s Indonesian service, the lawsuit was held at the Yogyakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) on November 21. Dozens of residents of Kampung Gunung Bulu, where the church sits, came to court to express their support of the Bantul Regent Suharsono’s decision to cancel GKPI’s IMB in July 2019.

After the hearing, Rev. Sitorus’ lawyer, Yogi Zul Fadhli, said the Bantul Regent had violated the general principles of good governance. One of the principles of good governance is the principle of legal assurance.

“We see that the revocation of the Sedayu Church IMB has violated Mr. Sitorus’ rights, where Mr. Sitorus then lost his legal assurance, because IMB had previously been issued to establish a place of worship, but suddenly the regent revoked it without a verification process beforehand,” said Yogi.

The lawsuit itself was registered by Sitorus on October 21, 2019. According to the case information from PTUN, the plaintiff demanded that the court declare the district head of Bantul had issued a letter that contradicted laws and regulations, the protection of human rights, and the general principles of good governance.

Yogi also added that the revocation of IMB was not carried out with balanced verification. The Regent based verification on data from the Ministry of Religion, which often favors accounts of the country’s majority – Muslims. Yogi claims, since 1997, Sitorus has used the building as a place of worship.

The locals, however, claim that Sitorus house was built in 2003. After it was finished, the local residents held a meeting and asked Sitorus to not use it as place of worship, to which he agreed. Problem arose again when in January 2019, GPDI Immanuel Sedayu was among the places of worship that was granted the IMB and immediately upset the locals, leading to the regent’s cancellation of the IMB six months later.

In Indonesia, it is particularly difficult for any churches to get the IMB, Christians often face rejection from their Muslim neighbors, thus unable to obtain the dozens of consent that are required for the application to be processed. Once they get the IMB, there is also no guarantee that they can continue to gather without disruption, as evident in the case of this Sedayu church.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org.