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02/19/2020 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Ministry has reiterated that there is no problem of religious intolerance behind the protest against construction work at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Karimun, a remote regency in Riau Islands province.

Special Staff of the Minister of Religion, Ubaidilah Amin Moech at the Ministry of Religion, told the staff after he returned from Karimun that “there is no sectarian problem. The issue concerns only building permits (IMB).”

On February 6, a violent demonstration was staged by dozens of Islamic radicals gathered outside the parish building, even though the parish has obtained all the required permits, and wants to demolish the original building for a larger structure to accommodate more worshippers.

Protesters chanted slogans and insults, at one point even attempted to break in and attack the church spokesman, according to Asia News.

On February 17, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD announced that the case had been settled, and that the parties had agreed to refrain from any action that could cause tensions.

The church stopped its construction two weeks ago, after facing protests by a local Muslim group and Islamist-inspired Karimun Regency Caring Alliance (APKK), who previously has sued the district agency for releasing the IMB. The two groups are demanding that the structure, built 92 years ago by Dutch missionaries, be classified a “place of historical interest,” thus preventing any work on the building.

In reality, radicals have asked that the church be moved elsewhere, said the local parish priest, Fr. Kristiono.

The parish has agreed to wait for a ruling from the State Administrative High Court (PTUN) on the matter.

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