The Jakarta Post, June 15, 2007
Bandung churches again in the crosshair
Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung
Around 150 members of the Mosque Movement Front (FPM) and the Anti-Apostasy
Front took to the streets of Bandung on Thursday to demand the closure of private
homes being used for church activities.
They marched from the al-Ikhlash Mosque in Soreang Indah to the Katapang district
office in Bandung.
FPM head Suryana Nur Fatwa said that if the administration and the Religious
Community Communication Forum failed to close down the churches, the group
would oppose an ordinance on illegal houses of worship, saying it was useless.
"Every violator must stop their activities or the FPM will be forced to close them
down," Fatwa said.
He said he was disappointed by the lack of action taken against people who had
broken the ordinance and said that as long as the local government was silent, public
protests would continue.
"That's why we propose the decree, issued by the religious and home ministers, be
enacted into law," said Fatwa.
Katapang district chief Nina Setiyana said she did not wish to take sides but wanted
all houses of worship in her area to be authorized.
"It would surely be better if they all had permits and did not break the regulation... so
no one could make a problem out of it," she said.
Fatwa listed 26 private homes which had been turned into churches by Christian
communities in Bandung regency.
"Seventeen of them have stopped operating of their own free will, but nine others are
still carrying out their activities," said Fatwa.
Simon Timorason, the head of the West Java chapter of the Indonesian Churches
Communication Forum, said the government should take the initiative in providing land
for minority groups in order to prevent such problems from arising, referring to an
article in the decree on religious harmony and the establishment of places of worship.
"It clearly states that the provincial administration should facilitate the acquisition of a
new location to build a house of worship," he said.
Simon has recorded 70 disputes involving residents and Christian communities using
private homes as churches since January 2004.
Most of the cases took place in Bandung regency, as well as Bekasi, Bogor, Garut,
Purwakarta and Subang. Simon said the main problem faced by a Christian
community intending to apply for a permit to establish a church was Muslim
communities in the area who were against it.
"The provincial administration should pay attention to every community because it is
part and parcel of every faith and not a certain religion," Simon said.
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