Mar 31, 2013

Indonesia - Jakarta churches hold mass at Presidential palace, demand tolerance

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Members of a number of churches in Greater Jakarta will hold their Easter mass in front of the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta today and call for an end to their suffering.

Members of the Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Bogor, the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) Taman Sari and HKBP Filadelfia in Bekasi will present an Easter egg to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono today as a symbol of religious freedom, GKI Yasmin spokesman Bona Sigalingging said.

Bona said they will give the president a big Easter egg ornamented with colourful paper in the hope that the government would protect all citizens, irrespective of religion and faith.

“We will keep praying in front of the palace as long as the state lets the majority discriminate against us and close our churches,” he said.

The GKI Yasmin congregation has conducted their Sunday service in front of the palace every two weeks for the last three years in their relentless effort to reclaim their church since it was sealed by the Bogor mayor in 2010. Although they have won their case at the Supreme Court, Bogor administration refuses to open the church in the Taman Yasmin housing complex.

The HKBP Filadelfia church, meanwhile, is facing violent resistance from residents and Islamic organisations despite having the required permit. The police have repeatedly failed to protect the congregation from harassment.

And yet another church recently fell victim to intolerance that observers say is the direct result of the absence of a strong government.

Last week, a HKBP church in Taman Sari, Bekasi, was demolished by the administration because the church did not have a building permit.

Reverend Advent Leonard Nababan of HKBP in Taman Sari, said his church would hold Easter mass both in the front yard of their church and the Presidential Palace.

Leonard said the congregation hoped that the government would pay attention to them.

“We hope the president will be willing to go to the field and see what has happened to his people,” he said.

HKBP Filadelfia lawyer Judianto Simanjuntak said the service on Sunday did not defend only besieged Christian churches but all minority groups oppressed by majorities. He said HKBP Filadelfia was currently using another HKBP church in Duren Jaya to conduct their services and would continue to fight for their rights.

Indonesia is under the international spotlight for its failure to protect religious minorities.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged President Yudhoyono to order the heads of local administrations to stop tearing down houses of worship and annul discriminative regulations on houses of worships in Indonesia.

Brad Adams, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, said in a press release that the demolition of HKBP church in Taman Sari by the Bekasi administration did not only violate religious freedoms but would also bring about sectarian conflicts.

The president needed to pay compensation to the congregation and publicly order all local administrations to stop demolishing houses of worships, he added.

The group recorded that more than 30 churches in Java and Sumatra and a mosque in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, were shut down from 2010 to 2012.

According to the group, Christian congregations in Indonesia find getting permits to build churches difficult, which forces them to build the churches illegally.

More than 20 HKBP churches in Bekasi were built without permits.

The Jakarta Post

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