City to church: Go away!

By Michael Carl

Reports in Indonesia say that Indonesia’s Interior Minister and local Bogor City authorities, after meeting with members of a local jihadist group, are ordering the GKI Yasmin Church to relocate to an undeveloped plot of land some five miles from the land and building they already have.

Local officials are ordering the church move in spite of lawsuits, petitions, and formal protests filed by the church with Indonesia’s justice ministry, as well as a ruling from the Indonesian Supreme Court in 2011 that the church could reopen.

The church also has the necessary local permits for operation.

The church has been closed since Bogor City Mayor Diani Budiarto ordered the building sealed in April 2010, claiming that the church had violated city ordinances and didn’t have the necessary permits.

Since the forced closure, church members have been meeting in front of the presidential palace in protest of the city’s refusal to allow the church to use its building.

Human rights group International Christian Concern Southeast Asia analyst Ryan Morgan says the case is evidence of the influence jihadists have in Indonesia.

“Essentially radical Islamic groups weren’t happy with the church’s existence and put pressure on the local government to force the church to move,” Morgan said. “The local government sealed the church, which they typically do on the basis of a lack of a building permit.”

Morgan adds that local governments in Indonesia appease the predominantly Muslim population by putting complex and difficult requirements on churches to obtain building and occupancy permits.

“The permit is very difficult to obtain, and this same process is repeated over and over again against churches in Indonesia,” Morgan said.

Reports say that the Bogor City government has offered land and a 10-billion rupiah budget to build a new building about five miles from the church’s present location.

The Jakarta Post said the Indonesian federal government has even given its approval to the relocation plan.

Church officials say that even with the land grant, there’s no guarantee they would be able to build because the church would be required to get a new building permit. That process would involve getting a petition signed by 60 Muslims and 90 Christians.

“However in this case GKI Yasmin actually has a legal permit, and the Supreme Court of Indonesia eventually ruled that they did and could legally continue to meet, but the mayor has refused to abide by the court ruling,” Morgan said.

Morgan adds that the church has likely run out of alternatives and options.

“I think GKI Yasmin has exhausted pretty much every effort open to them at this point. They have been holding services in front of the presidential palace in protest, but even with the Supreme Court on their side they are still barred from their building,” Morgan said.

Morgan also says that the church faces the wrath of the local Muslim population if they attempt to reoccupy their building, even though they have a legal right to do so.

“If they return to holding services outside of their shut down building, then yes, they could face harassment and intimidation at the hands of radical Islamic groups, but I think their case is too well known both in Indonesia and internationally for the government to risk or allow violence against the church members,” Morgan said.

Church officials say they will refuse to move and will not accept offers to relocate.

Morgan says that the Yasmin church’s situation isn’t an isolated incident in the country.

“This church’s case is a long-running one but sadly just one of many in the country,” Morgan said.

The GKI Yasmin church issue is taking place at the same time Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa’adduin Djamal is attempting to close nine churches and five Buddhist monasteries.

Morgan says Aceh is the only fully Islamic Indonesian province.

“Aceh is the one province in Indonesia governed by Shariah law and the local officials are typically more radical than anywhere else in the country,” Morgan said.

“Back in April a local official in Aceh sent a letter to 20 churches ordering them to tear down their churches with their own hands,” Morgan said.

Catholic churches and schools are also on the receiving end of jihadi influenced government pressure. WND reported in September that a Catholic school was also taking heat from the government.

Authorities are threatening to close a Christian school on the Muslim-majority Indonesian island of Java because of the school’s refusal to teach Islam, according to reports.

Asia News said officials in the Tegal District in central Java have told the administrators of St. Pius Catholic school that Islam must be taught to the Muslim students or the school will face closure.

“The situation is critical because the sisters of the St Pius Catholic Schools have received threats and warnings, including the threat of having their schools shut down if they do not comply with the requests,” the report said.

Morgan says religion is required in the island nation’s schools.

“Religious education is compulsory in Indonesian schools, but there isn’t a law actually saying that Islam must be the religion taught,” Morgan said.

Morgan adds that these incidents expose the weakness of Indonesia’s central government.

“It is very troubling to see the federal government of Indonesia, which publicly avows religious tolerance, stand by and do nothing as hundreds of Christians are marginalized and forced from their churches by radical Islamists. It happens constantly, but Jakarta remains silent,” Morgan said.

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