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Indonesian mayor blocks roads to church to stop service

Country/Region: Indonesia, South and East Asia

An under-fire mayor has carried out his threat to block all access roads to an Indonesian church in his latest effort to prevent the congregation from holding services.

The congregation of Yasmin Church (KGI) in Bogor were forced to meet in one of the member’s homes on Sunday (13 November) after they were denied access to their site by security forces and Muslim extremists.

Bogor-West-Java_4X3.jpg
A street scene from Bogor,
West Java, Indonesia
CC BY-NC 2.0 / Kent Kanouse

The church has been holding services on the street in front of its half-constructed church since its building permit was revoked in 2008. Bogor city chiefs, spearheaded by Mayor Diani Budiarto, have refused to comply with a Supreme Court order issued in December 2010 that the church be reopened.

On 9 October, the mayor sent security forces against the congregation after they gathered for their regular outdoor Sunday service. He warned the Christians that he would deny them access to the streets around the building to prevent them from meeting.

The church is also facing opposition from the Muslim Indonesia Communications Forum, whose extremist leader has claimed that KGI leaders falsified the signatures by residents on the application for its church building construction permit. This has been strongly denied by the church.

Mayor under fire

Mayor Budiarto is coming under mounting pressure over his refusal to uphold the court’s ruling in favour of the church. The nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDIP) has withdrawn its support from his administration and has not ruled out a vote of no confidence against him in the local legislative body.

Hamka Haw, head of the PDIP’s Religious Affairs Commission, said that Mayor Budiarto had violated the constitution and abused the rights of the members of the Yasmin Church, who had won their case in court and had a permit to practise their faith.

The Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation has also intervened on behalf of the embattled church. Its president, Todung Mulya Lubis, has written to the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono asking him to enforce the law.

He wrote:

Mr President, you are the last hope for the Yasmin Church to see its rights respected.

Muslim professor Azyumardi Azra, dean of the Ciputat State Islamic University (South Tangerang), has condemned the "inertia" of the government in pursuing the Mayor of Bogor, who, he says, should be put on trial over his treatment of the church.

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