Increase in religious rights violations in Indonesia
Published 06 June 2012 | ASSIST News Service
Compass Direct News (CDN) is reporting that the number of violations of Christians' religious rights in Indonesia reached 40 in the first five months of the year, nearly two-thirds the amount of anti-Christian actions in all of last year, according to the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum.
"The Christian minority in Indonesia faced 64 cases of violations of religious freedom last year, up from 47 in 2010, said Theophilus Bela, president of the group. Bela said he was worried about the growing incidence of violence and church closures, as his group recorded just 10 anti-Christian incidents in 2009," said the CDN story.
"At least 22 churches have been forced to close this year, including 18 in the Singkil regency of Aceh Province that were sealed last month. Bela said that after his organisation's intervention the closed churches in Aceh began worshipping again on May 13, but unconfirmed reports indicate other churches in the area have since been forced to close."
CDN added that violence against Christians has also increased, with most incidents taking place in areas surrounding Jakarta and Singkil. In Bekasi, near Jakarta, the municipal government sealed three churches in February because they had not yet fulfilled the requirements of the Joint Ministerial Decree.
In Mangseng village in Perwira Town, Bekasi, Batak Protestant Church Kaliabang, Merciful Christ Church of Indonesia and a Pentecostal Church in Indonesia congregation were closed on Feb. 11 because they did not have building permits. They have since applied for them, but officials have stalled or otherwise stonewalled their efforts.
Earlier this year, unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets at the building of the Indonesia Christian Church (locally known as the GKI) in Indramayu, West Java Province, about 100 miles east of Jakarta. While no one was killed in the March 16 incident, it terrorised the Christian minority.
"In Pangkal Pinang, in Bangka-Belitung Province, authorities have refused to grant a permit to construct a Catholic seminary due to opposition from local Muslims, according to Catholic news agency UCAN. Officials suggested the Catholic Diocese of Pangkal Pinang stop construction and move the building to a neighboring village, though clergy said they had previously submitted all necessary applications," added the CDN story
Another GKI church , known as the Yasmin Church, has also been denied permission to meet for worship at its church site despite a favorable Supreme Court order.
Local Christians complain that the impractical requirements of a 2006 decree, the Revised Joint Ministerial Decree on the Construction of Houses of Worship, provide the pretext for Islamic extremists and officials to close churches, revoke permissions and delay building permits. It mandates religious groups obtain the signatures of at least 90 members and 60 area residents, as well as approval from the local religious affairs office.