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Islamists rally against embattled Indonesian church

Country/Region: Indonesia, South and East Asia

Hundreds of Islamists have rallied against a beleaguered Indonesian church, which has been blocked from its building by the city mayor in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. 

The first of two protests was staged outside the Bogor City Hall on Sunday 27 November. Members of hard-line groups, Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia and the Indonesian Muslim Communication Forum, decried the “arrogance” of GKI Yasmin Church and said they wanted to show that all Muslims were united in opposition to its presence in the city.

Indonesian-Bogor-City-4X3.jpg
The city of Bogor, West Java
Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Muhyiddin Junaidi, local branch chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), said it would be “wise and sensible” for the church to yield to “the feelings of the local believers, specifically Muslims”.

Meanwhile, a video on Hizb ut-Tahrir’s website shows the group’s leaders telling the public that the church did not have a building permit, and that Christianisation would follow if they allowed the church to be built in the area.

GKI Yasmin was issued with a building permit in 2006, but this was revoked two years later. Since then, the congregation has been holding services on the street in front of its half-constructed building. In December 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the closure was unlawful and ordered the church to be reopened. But Bogor city chiefs, spearheaded by Mayor Diani Budiarto, have refused to comply with this and a subsequent ruling by the Ombudsman Commission.

Islamist protesters rallied again in Bogor on Wednesday 30 November in support of the mayor’s decision.

Muhammad Al Khaththath, secretary general of the Islamic People’s Forum, told the Jakarta Globe:

Members of the press, please cover the rally by Bogor Muslims in support of the Mayor’s decision to revoke GKI Yasmin’s permit and stop GKI’s arrogance.

The mayor has tried to justify his decision, which has been internationally condemned, with the spurious argument that a church should not be built on a street with an Islamic name.

Intensifying his campaign against the congregation, he has blocked all access roads to the site to prevent them from holding their regular outdoor service. This measure has been supported by Muslim extremists.

And last week, the congregation was prevented from gathering on the pavement in front of the sealed-off church by a group of motorcycle taxi drivers. They claimed that they were losing business because the Christians were praying on the pavement, leaving them with nowhere to park their vehicles.

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