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08/08/2022 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – As of August 2, residents in North Sumatra’s capital, Medan, reported ongoing work at a church site after agreements were made to postpone construction.

In June of last year, local residents, members of Tabernacle Pentecostal Church of Christ (GPT), the construction committee, and the Medan City Religious Harmony Forum (FKUB) gathered to discuss the establishment of a church in the area. Local residents protested the construction of the worship building due to its location and close proximity to residents’ homes. In addition, it was pointed out that the church cannot continue construction since the congregation does not have a building permit (IMB). A final decision on this matter was postponed, further delaying and preventing work on the church.

Since this meeting, work on the church has continued. Recently, residents witnessed construction workers at the church site digging up canals meant for drains and septic tanks. Upon confrontation, workers said they were leveling the ground, not building the church.

As more residents came to protest the construction, the head of the local police, Police Commissioner Faidir Chan, along with the village head and representatives of the sub-district, demanded a full stop to construction. To resolve this conflict, a meeting was advised for August 6 between the construction committee, local civilians, and the church.

Opposition to the church building reportedly started in November 2020 when residents met with the FKUB and Medan Amplas sub-district head. The main purpose of this meeting was to discuss concerns related to the building of churches in the area. Since the meeting, local community members have sent the FKUB and the mayor of Medan letters demanding an end to the construction of the church.

Li Purnama, a local resident, stated that the community does not prohibit the establishment of churches, but there must be an upholding of procedures and general approval from the local community.

In Muslim-majority Indonesia, conflicts such as this are not uncommon, thanks to the discriminatory regulations against religious minorities in obtaining IMB. While it is nearly effortless for Muslims to build a mosque, it is very challenging for Christians to obtain the needed documents for the IMB application. Even with the IMB granted to them, rarely is the case where they get to build their house of worship without protests from the local community.

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