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Persecuted Indonesian church protests in front of presidential palace

Country/Region: Indonesia, South and East Asia

Hundreds of members of a besieged Indonesian church staged a protest and held their Sunday service in front of the country’s presidential palace, calling on the president to uphold their rights.

Susilo-Bambang-Yudhoyono-4X3.jpg
Indonesian President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Agência Brasil / CC BY 2.5

GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor has been under intense persecution from the city mayor and militant Muslims, who have repeatedly blocked them from holding services at their site.

On 29 January, the congregation demonstrated in front of the presidential palace in the capital, Jakarta. They called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to stop the acts of discrimination and intimidation against them.

Church spokesman Bona Sigalingging said:

We came here so that the top leader of the country may help solve this problem, for love of the rule of law and the defence of diversity in Indonesia.

The church’s half-constructed building has been illegally sealed off by city chiefs since 2008, forcing the congregation to hold services on the street. Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto has refused to comply with an order by the Supreme Court in December 2010, and subsequent ruling by the Ombudsman Commission, that the church be reopened. He has used various ploys to prevent the church from gathering publicly, an effort that has been backed by radical Islamists, who have staged repeated protests against the church.

In January, Islamists and public officials tried twice to prevent the church’s Sunday service from taking place. Mr Sigalingging said:

The mayor of Bogor informed us that we could not conduct celebrations on our church’s land or near it. This is a form of intimidation.

In a separate development, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, has sent a letter to the Indonesian government raising concerns about its handling of cases of religious discrimination, including the GKI Yasmin church blockade. The letter calls on the government to take action immediately in accordance with international human rights standards.

But according to Indonesia’s Human Rights Working Group, there has been no response from Jakarta thus far.

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