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International Christian Concern
Indonesia is celebrating its 70-year history as an independent nation. The nation is draped with read and white bunting and speeches and celebrations are the order of the day. Unfortunately, the independence being celebrated is not universally offered to all Indonesians as "some are more equal than others". Indonesia's Christians continue to suffer under selective restrictions especially when it comes to the building of churches and assembling together.
As described in our July 6 press release, two Christian churches, Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI) Yasmin Bogor and Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP) Filadelphia Bekasi, have been gathering outside Indonesia's presidential palace every other Sunday for over four years, asking government officials to enforce the Indonesian Supreme Court rulings on their cases. The court found that the government granted official construction permits to the churches.
ICC investigations have uncovered two more churches recently targeted by Islamic fundamentalists. Unfortunately, this kind of protest is becoming more common.
In Bekasi, St. Clara Catholic Church is facing heavy pressure from Muslim agitators claiming that the church does not have a building permit. When mayor of Bekasi, Rahmat Effendi, showed the permit to the protestors, however, they accused him of having taken bribes to forge the document. Effendi rejected the charges, but he nonetheless stopped construction of the church, at least temporarily. ICC's representative in Indonesia noted that the St. Clara parish had been "waiting for more than twenty years to get the license," but the closure put the church back to square one.
In Saman Bantul, the Baptist Church Indonesia (GBI was attacked by Islamic radicals from the Forum Jihad Indonesia (FJI). The Islamic radicals again claimed that GBI lacked a permit to establish a church and demanded that it be closed. Acting on information received from the local community in support of the church, the police responded to the scene with hundreds of patrolmen to stop the protestor from getting out of hand.
The Sewon District Chief of Police Cmr. Heru Setiawan said, "The local government, the church and FJI have to sit down and talk together...in the meantime the church should stop using the place." In this case, Police Chief Setiawan effectively acted on behalf of Islamic radicals to shut down the lawful building of a church. Why the chief of police would deem it necessary for the church to reach an agreement with radical Islamists opposing the rights afforded the church by the Indonesian constitution, and by the local mayor's office (the building permit) is not known.
"We celebrate with the people of Indonesia the independence they won in 1945", says Chris Warner, ICC's Regional Manager for Southeast Asia. "But Indonesia's Constitution was also established in 1945, and that document solemnly 'guarantees each and every citizen the freedom of religion and of worship in accordance with his religion and belief.' We are thankful for the rapid response of the police when churches are threatened, but also urge the government of Indonesia to honor its constitutional commitments to the freedom of religions for all its citizens."
For interviews, contact Christopher Warner, Regional Manager for Southeast Asia: RM-SEAsia@persecution.org
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