Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_custom_heading text=”By Gina Goh” font_container=”tag:h6|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1614173750237{margin-bottom: 22px !important;}”][vc_single_image image=”122707″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]02/24/2021 Indonesia (International Christian Concern)For decades, the churches in Muslim-majority Indonesia have faced challenges in obtaining a building permit (IMB), thanks to a decree issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2006.

The decree, which has been unfairly used to prevent the construction of churches and other religious minority premises, regulates that religious leaders should provide the signatures of 90 followers as well as signed support from at least 60 local residents. The building of a new church or other places of worship also needs approval from the village heads.

 The high threshold was set to discourage the growth of these religious minority premises. While the country claims to honor religious harmony and diversity, unfortunately, the local radical Muslims often protest and prevent the construction of churches or mosques built by unpopular strains of Islam, such as Ahmadiyah or Wahhabism adherents.

In fact, even if the churches obtained the IMB, it is not unusual for the permits to be later revoked by local authorities. In 2010, for example, the congregation of the Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI)-Yasmin Church in Bogor, West Java, was banned from using their church after local authorities revoked their building permit. The Bogor city government sealed their building on March 11, 2011, and the church has remained closed ever since.

However, with Jakarta’s recent appointment of a moderate Minister of Religious Affairs, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, things might finally start to turn around.

As the chairman of GP Ansor, the youth wing of the nation’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Yaqut Cholil Qoumas was instrumental in combatting extremism and upholding the country’s Pancasila ideology, which is to respect pluralism and religious harmony. 

Not long after his appointment, the minister promised to affirm the religious rights of the Shia and Ahmadiyah Muslims – as well as all other religious groups – and ensured that there would not be any persecution of minority groups.

In early February, the Director-General of Christian Community Development at the Ministry of Religion ordered all regional offices of the Ministry of Religion throughout Indonesia to collect data related to church construction which has been hampered by permits and other disturbances

According to CNN Indonesia, the request for data was carried out in relation to the policy plan of the Minister of Religion Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, which will review the 2006 Joint Ministerial Decree (SKB) 2 regarding the establishment of places of worship. Moreover, there have been frequent incidents recently related to church construction.

To effectively tackle the issue, the letter requested that the church data must contain the names of places of worship, locations, accompanied by simple analysis.

The analysis needs to document the incident and the current status of church construction, the possible causes of the obstacles that have occurred, and the steps that have been taken to overcome them. The parties that inhibited the construction, whether internal, local government, mass organizations, or others, must be named in the analysis as well.

The Director-General of Christian Community Guidance at the Ministry of Religion, Thomas Pentury, hopes that by surveying the challenges faced by many churches, the government can address the root cause of intolerance. He stated, “By prioritizing the concept of religious moderation, the Minister of Religion certainly hopes that there will not be many problems related to intolerance.”

While there is no guarantee that this data collection will lead to the end of IMB issue for churches in Indonesia, it is certainly an encouraging sign to see that the Indonesian government is willing to dig deeper into this abuse of regulations that has long violated the rights of religious minorities. 

For interviews please contact Alison Garcia: [email protected]