By ICC’s Indonesia Correspondent
09/17/2021 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – Excitement, gratefulness, and joy were written all over the faces of the GPdI Immanuel Bantul Sedayu congregation. On September 12, 2021, they could, at last, celebrate the thanksgiving ceremony for the 25th anniversary of their church in their own church building, although the church building is still under construction.
Pastor Yunus Tigor Sitorus, the leader of the Pentecostal church, took the time to phone ICC Representative to express his gratitude to ICC for keeping them company through the struggles they faced. From the very beginning of their ordeal, ICC has been there to encourage the church to fight for the members’ constitutional rights as citizens of Indonesia.
In 2019, GPdI Immanuel Sedayu experienced the rejection of their church building by local residents in Bantual regency, Yogyakarta. The building permit (IMB) of the church already granted to them was finally revoked by the local government due to pressure from the angry neighbors. They could no longer build a church building and were expelled from worshipping in that location.
While the church initially sought the legal route to resolve the issue, pastor Tigor Yunus Sitorus, his lawyer Budi Hermawan, along with Bantul Regent Suharsono, reached an agreement last year to withdraw its lawsuit in court so that the matter could be resolved amicably.
As a result, the church agreed to be relocated to Jurug Hamlet, Argosari Village, and the government soon issued an IMB for the church’s new construction in 2020.
Aware of their progress, ICC offered to assist in the form of a set of the sound system to support them in worship. Pastor Tigor shared with appreciation, “ICC is an inseparable part of our struggle GPdI Bantul Sedayu – thank you for the togetherness that has been established so far.”
He continued, “The sound system we have today is indeed very supportive of our worship service, and we could say that this is the best sound system we have so far. Thank you once again, ICC.”
Unfortunately, GPdI Immanuel Bantul Sedayu is merely one example of the many discrimination cases experienced by several churches located in Muslim-majority areas in Indonesia. While the Bantul church agreed to relocate and accepted the compromise, another well-known church, the GKI Yasmin in Bogor, is still struggling to have their constitutional rights granted until now.
Like Bantul church, GKI Yasmin secured an IMB in 2007, but the then-mayor revoked it and shut down the half-completed church due to protests from local Muslim groups. Although local authorities had Supreme Court rulings (2009) backed by the Ombudsman (2011) ordering them to allow the church to reopen given the validity of the IMB, more than ten years later, Mayor Bima Arya “kindly” offered a plot of land and asked them to relocate instead.
Even though the laws in Indonesia provide guarantees for every citizen to embrace religion and worship according to their respective beliefs, and the government is obliged to facilitate worship in accordance with the religion adhered to, in reality, the government always bows to the pressure given by the mass. This often happens in Muslim-majority areas.
Christians in Indonesia sincerely hope that during the reign of President Joko Widodo, he will deal with all matters relating to discrimination experienced by churches in Indonesia in a timely manner.
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