Indonesia. Hundreds of Islamic hard-liners attended a mass prayer session on Sunday near the sealed building of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) in Bogor, calling for the rejection of the Christian congregation’s request to use the church for worship.
The prayer session took place on Jalan KH Abdullah bin Nuh in West Bogor, the same road where the church building stands. The protest comes just a little over a week after the Supreme Court announced that it had rejected the Bogor city administration’s request to uphold the revocation of GKI Yasmin’s building permit.
The church remained sealed on Sunday in spite of the court ruling. The congregation was forced to relocate its Sunday service to the Harmoni Center building, located some 300 meters away from the sealed church.
“We are holding our services at Harmoni Center because the local administration has yet to unseal our church, even though the Supreme Court ruling has instructed it to do so. It is clear to us that the administration is united with fundamental Islamic mass organizations, because [Islamic hard-liners] are actually holding a prayer session [near the church] to intimidate us,” spokesman for GKI Yasmin, Bona Sigalingging, told the Globe.
“Instead of disbanding the prayer session, the local police and Bogor administration have actually provided [the Muslims] with security, and have given them a permit to hold the prayer session close to our church. And to top it all off, the topic of their prayer session is apostasy.”
Bona added that the congregation would not stop fighting for their rights. “We have won the [legal] case and we want our rights. Next week we will see the Bogor city administration to grant us our rights. If they do not open our church, we will open it by ourselves as the Supreme Court has rejected their request,” Bona said.
The Supreme Court’s announcement follows the church’s arduous battle spanning nearly a decade with both the Bogor administration and local Islamic hard-liners for the right to use its place of worship.
The congregation, which consists of more than 300 members, has been forced to hold its services across the road from the church, which has stood unfinished since it was last sealed off in March 2010. That came after the church had struggled with the local administration for nine years for permission to build its church in West Bogor.
Sunday’s mass prayer session saw hard-liners condemning GKI Yasmin’s congregation for violating the 2006 joint ministerial decree on Houses of Worship.
The decree requires any planning application for a place of worship to have the approval of at least 60 residents in the immediate vicinity, copies of 90 identity cards from congregation members and written recommendations from the local offices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interreligious Communication Forum (FKUB).
“They are in violation of the 2006 decree,” said Ahmad Iman, chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Communication Forum (Forkami), at the scene.
“Ever since they planned to build a church at Taman Yasmin, we have expressed our disagreement. Yet somehow they managed to get themselves a building permit issued by the administration, by paying off local residents in return for signatures on a blank form, agreeing to the building of the church.”
Muhammad Ajus, a local resident of Cijahe in the area, admitted that he was one of the locals paid off by the leader of GKI Yasmin Congregation.
“I was tricked by the leader of GKI Yasmin Congregation. I was asked to sign on a blank form and I was given Rp 100,000 [$11] in exchange,” Ajus said.
“Later, I realized that I had been paid to support the church to get a building permit, while actually I did not agree to it. The majority of the society here is Muslim. We don’t need a church.”
Ahmad accused the administration of failing to conduct a “fact check” on the signatures with local residents.
“We are Muslims. We are not stupid people who can be bought off with money! We are not anarchists. We are gathering here peacefully to reject the agenda of apostasy, but in a peaceful way,” Ahmad said.
This is not the first time the GKI Yasmin has won a battle in court. A State Administrative Court [PTUN] also ruled in favor of the church permit in 2009. Back in August 2010, the Bogor administration’s Public Order Agency officers, armed with a letter from the local administration, decided to implement the PTUN ruling and unseal the church, only to seal it up again a day later, citing the reason used previously to close it — the locals were getting restless.
The congregation has struggled to convince the local administration to allow their church to be built since 2001.
A building permit was issued in July 2006 but then frozen by the local administration in February 2008. The State Administrative Courts in Jakarta and Bandung both ruled in favor of the church and in January 2010 construction resumed briefly before the church was sealed again in March.
Muhammad Zein from the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) cited Islamic Shariah law as the only solution to the issue of the church’s construction in Bogor.
“If [Shariah law] were implemented in Indonesia, there would be no case of GKI Yasmin. The church was not accepted by the community but it managed to secure a building permit. Indonesia’s ‘one village, one church’ policy will foster apostasy in future generations,” Zein said.