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Indonesian church threatened by Muslims for holding outdoor services

Country/Region: Indonesia, South and East Asia

An Indonesian congregation has come under threat for holding services on the street in front of its half-constructed church after its building permit was revoked.

During a protest by Muslim groups last week, the church in Bogor, West Java, was warned of “anarchy” if the congregation did not take their services elsewhere. And the congregation feared for its safety after receiving a letter dated 2 July from local residents, calling on the authorities to put an end to all religious services and activities by the congregation. The church has also been under sustained pressure from the Mayor of Bogor to stop holding services outside the building.

Indonesian-Supreme-Court-4X3.jpg
The Supreme Court ordered the church
be reopened but city chiefs have refused

The congregation has been doing this since their permit for the building was revoked in 2008. The Supreme Court ordered in December 2010 that the church be reopened, but Bogor city chiefs have refused to comply.

Church spokesman Bona Sigalingging said they would continue to hold services on the street until the church was reopened. The city authorities have tried to move them to another building, but Mr Sigalingging said this was not part of the solution, adding,

The mayor created a new problem by ignoring the supremacy of the law. The church will not be chased away from the road where it meets.

Thankfully, a protest against the church by Muslims on Sunday (10 July) did not turn violent as feared. The demonstrators called for the congregation to move somewhere else, saying pavements were not a place for worship. Police officers were deployed to the scene to prevent clashes.

International attention

Human Rights’ group Amnesty International has intervened on behalf of the church, urging the authorities to “take adequate measures to guarantee the safety of the ... congregation, in accordance with their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

The group also urged the government to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all reports of intimidation, harassment and attacks against congregation members, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

And the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 7 July expressing “grave concern at the incidents of violence against religious minorities” in Indonesia and called on the authorities to repeal or revise local blasphemy, heresy and religious defamation by-laws, which “are open to misuse”.

Islamic militants are very active in Bogor, and there has been a long series of anti-Christian incidents in the area. The authorities have failed to rein in the Islamists and have sometimes promoted their agenda.

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