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01/27/2020 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – A group of citizens on behalf of the United Muslim Community Forum (FUIB) rejected the construction of a Catholic church in the middle of Tanjungbalai City, Karimun, in the Riau Islands, although the Church of the Saint Joseph Parish has obtained a Building Permit (IMB) dated October 2, 2019 issued by the Karimun Regency Government. A lawsuit has also been filed since last December.

FUIB Chairman Karimun Abdul Latif called for the refusal mainly because Karimun was inhabited by a majority of Muslims. Another reason used to protest the IMB is the height of the church. According to the protesters, the height of the church should not be taller than the Regent’s house in the area.

However, the church has already issued a statement, clarifying that the church is not taller than the Regent’s Official House Karimun, only about 11.75 meters high, while the official residence of the regent was 12 meters tall. Also as a form of compromise, the church agreed to not use Catholic religious attributes outside of the building, such as no cross, no statue of the mother of Virgin Mary, although “This is certainly very painful, but the bitter pill must be swallowed, like it or not, it must be decided, not to use a cross outside the church building is the lowest humility of the church […]”

Despite Minister of Religion Fachrul Razi’s claim that he has stepped in and mediated the rejection of the construction, the lawsuit still moves forward. Meanwhile, Latif still claims FUIB as a tolerant group that values ​​religious differences although they are driving the rejection of the church’s construction.

“We are very tolerant. That means we don’t forbid, there are also many churches here,” he said.

It is not uncommon for the government to find technical excuses to object construction or issuance of IMB for churches in Indonesia, whereas building of mosques would not encounter the same scrutiny and resistance.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]