West Java [Indonesia]: Catholics targeted by Bogor authorities, “house of prayer” closed down
by Mathias Hariyadi
Decision motivated by alleged irregularities in the building permit. The faithful respond: the documents are legal, the town council refuses to grant the permit. And promise to go ahead with regular Sunday services. For some time the area has been the scene of violence and abuse against minorities, especially Christians.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – With the pretext of irregularities in building permits, public safety officials (the Satpol PP) in Bogor, West Java province, yesterday sealed off a “house of prayer” used by over 6 thousand Catholics from the parish of St. John the Baptist. For six years, the faithful have regularly used the building for weekend liturgies and those of the main Christian festivals, but had recently come under fire from authorities – three times – ordering them to stop all worship. The Catholic community has deliberately ignored the warnings, believing the closure order related IMB specious and counting on the legitimate right to religious freedom.
The process for building a church in Indonesia – Catholic or Protestant – is quite complicated and may take five to ten years to obtain all permits required by law. The procedure is governed by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a species of written protocol that allows for construction to commence and is issued by local authorities. The story gets more complicated if it is a place of Christian worship: permission must be obtained from a number of residents in the area where the building is to be constructed and the local Group for Interfaith Dialogue. And even if the permission is granted “unspecified reasons” can come into play that will lead officials to block the projects. Often, this occurs after pressure from the Muslim community or radical Islamic movements.
The “house of prayer” is situated in Tulang Kuning, the village of Waru, in the Parung sub-district, Bogor regency. Yesterday a group of Satpol PP officers, led by Comerain La Ode, said the forced closure was “for the next seven days” and warned that “if the site is still used to pray in” teams would intervene to “demolish the building” .
However, local AsiaNews sources report that the Catholic community will not be intimidated and intend to hold their regular celebrations next weekend. “We have no alternative – said Fr. Gaib Pr, pastor of St. John the Baptist – but to gather in this place of prayer.” He added that Catholics have fulfilled all the ritual procedures for obtaining building permits, but for years the Bogor administration refuses to grant any clearances.
Moreover, the authorities of the municipality of Bogor are not new to incidents of abuse and violence against other religions, particularly the Protestant Christian community that refers to the GKI Yasmin Church (YC), long a target of Mayor Diani Budiarto and his zealous officials, who have recently closed their place of worship on the same pretext. In the past, also, the area was the scene of anti-Christian violence especially during major holidays such as Christmas or Easter (see AsiaNews 23/12/2012 West Java: Islamic extremist groups threaten Catholics, Christmas celebrations at risk www.asianews.it/news-en/West-Java,-the-construction-of-the-Catholic-church-of-Saint-Mary-blocked-16637.html ).