Sidewalk Church Protest Remains Civil Despite Odds

The Jakarta Globe

A protest in Bogor that had been expected to turn violent remained civil on Sunday as a group of people in the mostly Muslim community voiced opposition to the Yasmin church congregation holding services on a sidewalk outside of its sealed-off church. 

Global rights group Amnesty International earlier reported that the congregation had received threats from the local community that if the services did not stop by Sunday, “anarchy” would erupt. 

“In the last couple of weeks, the religious hard-line groups haven’t showed up to protest against us using the sidewalks to hold a Sunday service,” church spokesman Bona Sigalingging said. “However, there was a group of people present, even the head of my community.” 

The group did not threaten them, he said. 

“This group did not come up with intimidating banners or shouting sectarian words,” he said. “They even sang some national songs as they asked us to move somewhere else because sidewalks were not a place for worship.” 

The city government had earlier asked the congregation to move to an alternative location, the Harmoni Yasmin building, instead of using the sidewalk to avoid clashing with protesters. 

Bona said his congregation has no plans to move the service to the Harmoni Yasmin building or anywhere else. 

“They are saying the sidewalk is not a place for worship, but neither is the Harmoni Yasmin building,” he said. “We just want our church reopened.” 

The Bogor administration revoked the church’s building permit, alleging that the congregation had falsified signatures to obtain it. The Supreme Court has ordered the church reopened, but the city has refused to comply. 

“Basically, this [disturbance] is the result of the Bogor mayor ignoring the Supreme Court ruling,” Bona said. 

“If they want us to leave the pavement, let’s unite and urge the Bogor mayor to reopen the Yasmin church. It’s as simple as that.” 

Bona said police officers were deployed to secure the area and prevent clashes. 

“We really appreciate how serious the police have been about ensuring security for us while we were doing the Sunday service in recent weeks,” Bona said. 

On Friday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on attacks against minorities such as Christians and Ahmadiyah in Indonesia, shining a spotlight the violent persecution of minorities in the c ountry. 

The resolution expressed “grave concern at the incidents of violence against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadi Muslims, Christians, Baha’i and Buddhists” and called on the Indonesian authorities to repeal or revise local bylaws governing heresy. 

In June, a delegation from Christian Solidarity Worldwide returned from a three-week visit to Indonesia with first-hand evidence of increasing violence against religious minorities, particularly Christians and the Ahmadiya Muslim community, the group said in a statement. 

CSW visited churches in Bekasi and Bandung that had been forced to close, and it met with pastors who faced increasing harassment, threats an d attacks

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