01/22/2020 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – A church under construction in Indonesia was abruptly halted after the Tanjungpinang administration in Riau Islands revoked the building permit (IMB) for the Bethel Church of Indonesia (GBI) My Home church last month.
Jakarta Post reports that the move followed a claim by a local interfaith communication forum (FKUB) that the church had not met the requirements set by a controversial 2006 joint ministerial decree on places of worship.
According to GBI My Home pastor Baskoni Ginting, the congregation started preparing for construction in 2016 by informing the neighbors and surrounding communities about its plans to build a church at the D’Green City housing complex.
While the church was able to obtain 110 ID cards and the residents’ signatures required to apply for the permit, the authorities said that “There was a finding alluding that we had used ID cards of residents who disagreed with the construction, […] We’ve done that since 2016, starting at the community and neighborhood level to the (necessary) agency until the IMB was issued. However, the permit was revoked,” said Baskoni.
He added that the construction of GBI My Home was important as it would serve 1,200 registered congregants, who for now had to pray in an old church building located about 5 kilometers away from the new church.
Baskoni said that he was expecting a solution from Tanjungpinang Mayor Syahrul so that the construction of the church could continue without any further problems.
In response to the issue, Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid urged the Tanjungpinang administration to annul its decision to revoke the permit and demanded that the central government repeal the joint ministerial decree.
“This is a clear case of persecution and discrimination against a religious minority. The authorities in Tanjungpinang have failed to provide any legal justification for denying this permit and blatantly disregarded the Constitution and their obligations to respect the right to religious freedom and ensure equal enjoyment of human rights,” he said.
It is not uncommon for local governments in Indonesia to revoke church permits after protests of Muslim-majority local residents. Often, the authorities will find excuses— from building regulations, administrative breach, to failure to meet requirements – to annul the previously promised permits, in order to please agitated residents. Churches have to move, rent places, or meet in public space as a result.
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