Special to Morning Star News
JAKARTA, Indonesia, October 16 (Morning Star News) – A church in Bogor, West Java is snubbing a ministerial decree that, because of Islamic opposition, it must relocate.
The Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in the Yasmin Park area of Bogor, 60 kilometers (38 miles) south of Jakarta, is demanding that the national and local governments comply with a Supreme Court ruling calling for the revocation of its permit to be reinstated.
Thomas Wadura, head of the GKI Yasmin elder board, stated that the church firmly rejected the ministerial decree. Both the local and central government must carry out the ruling by the Supreme Court and the mandatory recommendation of the federal Ombudsman to allow the GKI Yasmin Church to worship in its own building, Wadura said.
In addition, he said, residents of the area where the church would be relocated, five kilometers (three miles) away on Dr. Semeru Street, object to the move because there is already a church in their area.
“The community rejects us,” Wadura said. “That just strengthens our resolve to reject relocation.”
He added that the area of the proposed relocation is densely populated, with streets jammed with motorcycles.
The church was responding to a meeting of federal and local officials and Islamist groups on Sept. 7 to discuss the GKI Yasmin case. Diani Budiarto, the defiant mayor of Bogor, met with Minister of Interior Gamawan Fauzi and Islamic groups such as the Indonesian [Muslim] Clerics Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia) and the Muslim Communication Forum of Indonesia (Forum Komunikasi Muslim Indonesia), a radical group that has prevented the congregation from worshipping in its building. The group has also portrayed the church as problematic rather than those who have harassed it in violation of Indonesia’s supposed religious freedoms.
Also present at the meeting were representatives of the Interfaith Harmony Forum (Forum Kerukunan Umat Beragama) and the GKI Yasmin church.
At the end of the meeting, Interior Minister Fauzi decreed relocation. Upon hearing the decree, GKI Yasmin church spokesperson Bona Sigalingging flatly rejected it.
Church leaders said the government had apparently planned to issue the decree in advance, as it had already allocated 10 billion rupiahs (slightly more than US$1 million) for a new church building.
“The problem is not that the location is not expensive enough or good enough – relocation [itself] is what we reject,” Sigalingging told Tempo, an Indonesian weekly magazine.
He said relocation of the church would harm rule of law in Indonesia.
“This would create divisions and categories according to ethnicity, religion and race, and betray [national motto] ‘Unity in Diversity,’” he reportedly said.
The congregation agreed with a solution already presented by the National Defense Council (Dewan Ketahanan Nasional) to erect a building of another faith (i.e., a mosque) adjacent to the Yasmin church, Sigalingging said. He told Tempo that he did not understand why the relocation decree was suddenly put forth.
“Now the GKI Yasmin is relocated, the HKBP Filadelfia is relocated, the Ahmadiyah are relocated, the Shiites are relocated,” he was quoted as saying. “What kind of a country is this?”
A spokesperson for the interior ministry, Reydonnyzar Moenek, admitted to Tempo that the decree contradicted the decision of the Supreme Court, which found that the building permit was legal.
In a statement from the church to the Ombudsman of the Republic of Indonesia dated Sept. 10, the leaders urged the government to accept the Supreme Court ruling and correct the defiance of the Bogor mayor.
The church leaders gave Dec. 25 as the deadline for the return to their building, which is sealed, so that they may worship legally in it. This would set a good precedent to strengthen law and the constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, they added.
They pointed out to the Ombudsman that the mayor of Bogor and the interior minister have rejected the Supreme Court decision of Dec. 9, 2010, the recommendation of the Ombudsman on July 8, 2011, and the mandatory order of the Ombudsman on July 8, 2012; instead, the minister has joined the mayor in pressuring the church.
The church also noted that Bogor police have not acted on three reports to them by the congregation, who complained that: 1) Members of the Muslim Communication Forum of Indonesia destroyed part of the church fence in early 2010; 2) the Civil Service Police criminally interfered with worship services by closing and locking the gate; and 3) the mayor of Bogor threatened “war” against the church in an article in the Bogor Daily Radar Newspaper (Harian Radar Bogor).
None of these complaints has been investigated, the church stated to the Ombudsman.
They also noted that the interior minister has repeatedly said that he was committed to a resolution within the law. If he were responsible, GKI Yasmin church leaders said, he should enforce the decision of the Supreme Court and the recommendation of the Ombudsman.
Relocation to any place at any time is not part of the legal process to which Interior Minister Fauzi has repeatedly pledged to keep, the GKI Yasmin church leaders stated.
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