Residence for Pastors Suspended in Aceh by Local Authorities

09/07/2020 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – Local authorities in Aceh recently suspended the construction of the official residence for pastors from Pakpak Dairi Protestant Church in Aceh Singkil district. They also demanded an IMB (building permit) for the construction, although by law only churches need to apply for an IMB.

According to UCA News, Boas Tumangger, chairman of the Aceh Singkil Love Peace Forum, a Christian association, claims the local government requires that the construction of the house must follow regulations related to houses of worship, which require the approval of followers of other faiths.

Aceh, being the place where the spread of Islam in Indonesia began, the only place that follows Sharia law in the country, has always been hostile to other faiths. Boas’ church, along with a few other churches, were burned down or destroyed by radical Muslims in 2015.

Now they are appealing to the National Human Rights Commission to settle the discrimination they claim to have faced. In a letter to the commission, Boas wrote “The government considers the house will harm interreligious harmony and has the potential to cause social conflict.”

Boas considers such accusations unfounded. He added that it was the duty and responsibility of the government to reduce potential conflict among the community. Besides, Saudan Berasa, head of the construction committee, already reassured that the house to be built with the congregation’s donation will not be used for worship activities. The government’s request for IMB shows the longstanding discrimination against Christians.

Beka Ulung Hapsara, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said it had received the complaint and had asked the Ministry of Religion and the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs to address the issue.

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