News & Prayer Bulletin

Violence Feared in Indonesia; Let’s Prevent It – Write to the Mayor of Bogor

Jul 29, 2011


WEA-RLC Research and Analysis Report

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*(Please find below a letter of concern you could send to officials)

 

July 28, 2011

A protestant church in Indonesia may face mass violence if ongoing tensions are not calmed, WEA-RLC has learnt. The Yasmin Church in Bogor city, which was sealed off by authorities, has been holding Sunday worship on a sidewalk for the last few months. And each time the open-air worship is held, church members are outnumbered by a crowd that gathers around to protest.  

One a Sunday this month, only 35 worshippers celebrated Holy Communion on a sidewalk in front of their sealed-off church…while surrounded by seven times as many security officers and hardliners opposed to the church, according to Indonesias national newspaper The Jakarta Post. As the worship was in progress, a crowd of around 50 milled about at a distance, singing the national anthem, Padamu Negeri [For you my country], and chanting, God is great, in an attempt to disrupt the church service.

Part of the Indonesian Christian Church or GKI, the Yasmin Church is situated in Bogor city on the suburbs of Jakarta, one of the most communally tense areas of Indonesia. The daily noted that it had been a weekly battle against the persecution of religious minorities wreaked by [Bogor] Mayor Diani Budiarto, who, in clear violation of a Supreme Court ruling, sealed off the church.

Last December, the Supreme Court overturned local administrations plea to uphold a lower courts decision to shut down the church. The authorities then provided a public hall to the church for holding worship service temporarily. However, a month later, the mayor came under pressure from Islamist extremists and refused to allow the church to reopen. The mayor has also overlooked a recommendation made by the Ombudsman this month saying the administration is at fault for annulling the construction permit given to the church and therefore it should not be restrained from holding worship service.

Numerous supporters of extremists in Bogor constitute the vote bank of the administration. A recent survey by a civil rights group, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, showed that around 45 percent of residents of Bogor had objections to building of a non-Muslim place of worship.

Some believe powerful local residents have a commercial plan at the location of the church and hence the opposition. Whatever the motivation, the church this month sent an SOS appeal to a Catholic news agency, Fides, saying their members were at risk of facing mass persecution. The church also said that at a City Council meeting on July 15, some elements threatened to organize masses to put an end to the open-air worship.

The international community must take the threat seriously, as violence by extremist Islamist groups over permission to build a church or hold Christian worship is a trend this country has witnessed in recent years.

Local Christians complain that a 2006 decree, known as the Revised Joint Ministerial Decree on the Construction of Houses of Worship, has resulted in numerous instances of forced closure of churches and revocation and delays in issuing building permits.

Promulgated following anti-minority edicts issued by the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), the decree targets Christians and heretic Ahmadiyyas. It mandates religious groups to obtain the signatures of at least 90 members and 60 persons of other religious groups in the community as well as approval from the local religious affairs office. Even when these requirements are met, authorities seek to obstruct church worship. And such obstructions typically lead to violent attacks.

It is believed that the majority of the attacks are carried out or overseen by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the biggest Islamic radical mass organization having branches in 28 provinces and support-base of four million people.

To promote hate against Christians, groups like the FPI include in their teachings the allegation that most Christians have bad intentions towards Muslims, a recent study by the Setara Institute found. They particularly refer to and constantly repeat verse 120 of Al Baqoroh (Sura): And never the Jews and Christians will be pleased with you unless you follow their Din (creed). Say then! The guidance of Allah is the only guidance, (O listener who he may be) if you become follower of their desires, after the knowledge that has come to you, then no one will be your protector from Allah and no helper..  This is the most popular and constantly repeated verse among the radicals.

Extremist groups, which were suppressed by the second president of Indonesia Suharto, emerged after the fall of his regime in 1998, as democracy which followed gave them hope for a voice and role in public affairs. They oppose the doctrine of Pancasila five principles held to be inseparable and interrelated on which the Indonesian Constitution is based. These principles include the nations belief in the one and only God and social justice, humanity, unity and democracy for all.

With the growth of these groups, attacks on Ahmadiyyas and Christians also increased, especially in recent years. The Setara Institute recorded 135 incidents of violation of the freedom of religion or belief, including attacks, in 2007. There were 265 incidents in 2008 and 200 in 2009. However, most common Indonesian Muslims are seen as progressive and tolerant.

The biggest stumbling block in protecting minorities is the culture of impunity, which prevails partly because officials play a role in violence, and partly because of a lack of will on the part of the government to take on extremist elements. The government, however, urgently needs to enforce law in each and every instance of violence in the name of religion. Experience shows that leniency with extremists only emboldens them rather than evading unrest.

Regrettably, the government does not seem determined to protect the Christians of Bogor. And officials may not act until the world takes notice of and expresses concern about it. Therefore, WEA-RLC urges all concerned Christian groups, individuals and civil rights organisations to write letters of concern to the mayor and other officials to stop the apprehended persecution of members of the GKI church.

A sample letter and the contact details of the mayor, the human rights commission, the home/interior minister, and national media are given below:

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*Sample Letter: 

Mr. Diani Budiarto
The Mayor of Bogor
City Hall Bogor
Jl. Ir. H. Juanda No. 10 Bogor
West Java – Indonesia
Dear Mr. Budiarto,

Out of my concern for the safety of the Christian minority in your jurisdiction, I am writing to urge your office to de-seal the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI).


I have learnt that church members are holding worship service on a sidewalk on Sundays as their church remains sealed even after a Supreme Court ruling overturned your administrations plea to uphold a lower courts decision to shut down the church. An Ombudsman has also recommended that the church be re-opened.

As you must be aware, the open-air worship is being held amid protests by some local residents and extremist elements, and the situation can turn violent any time.

The international community has a high regard for the doctrine of Pancasila embedded in the constitution of your country, and as part of that community I truly hope and urge that your office will uphold its spirit and de-seal the church at the earliest.

Yours sincerely,

(Your/Organisations Name)
(Designation, Contact Details)

p.s.: Carbon copy sent to media, home minister and national commission on human rights.

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If you are sending an email:

Subject: Urgent Concern for Safety of Christians
To: kominfo@kotabogor.go.id, inspektorat@kotabogor.go.id;
Cc: info@komnasham.go.id, pusdatinkomtel@depdagri.go.id, editorial@thejakartapost.com, letters@thejakartaglobe.com
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Contact Details: 

Mr. Diani Budiarto
The Mayor of Bogor
City Hall Bogor
Jl. Ir. H. Juanda No. 10 Bogor
West Java – Indonesia
Tel: +62-251-8321075
kominfo@kotabogor.go.id
; inspektorat@kotabogor.go.id

National Commission on Human Rights, Indonesia

Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B
Menteng
Central Jakarta
Indonesia
Phone: +62-21-3925230
Fax:     +62-21-3925227

Email: info@komnasham.go.id

Mr. Gamawan Fauzi
Minister of Home Affairs
Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara No. 7
Central Jakarta
Phone: +62-21-3842222
Fax:     +62-21-3812221
Email: pusdatinkomtel@depdagri.go.id

The Jakarta Post
Jl. Palmerah Barat 142-143
Jakarta 10270
Tel: +62-021-5300476, 5300478
Fax: +62-021-5350050
Email: editorial@thejakartapost.com;

Jakarta Globe
Citra Graha Building 11th Floor, Suite 1102
Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto Kav. 35-36
Jakarta 12650
Indonesia
Tel: +62-21-29957500  
Fax: +62-21-5200072
Email: letters@thejakartaglobe.com

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World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) sponsors this WEA-RLC Research & Analysis Report to help individuals and groups pray for and act on religious liberty issues around the world. WEA has a consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

This report was researched and written by Fernando Perez, and moderated by the WEA-RLC Executive Director, Godfrey Yogaraja. It can be used for distribution or publication with attribution to WEA-RLC.

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