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Church-building raises tensions in Jakarta

UCAN Bishop Johannes Pujasumarta (front, second left) speaking with legislators at the Feb. 9 meeting
  • February 11 2010
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JAKARTA (UCAN) -- Church representatives raised concerns over disputes with local residents and authorities at a meeting with legislators this week.

Church members had been attacked and it was difficult to obtain church building permits, they said.

In some cases permits had been withheld because of protests by Muslims.

Reverend Gomar Gultom, secretary-general of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, together with 50 leaders of Protestant Churches, met lawmakers at the House of Representatives in South Jakarta on Feb 9.

General secretary of the Bishops Conference of Indonesia, Bishop Johannes Pujasumarta of Bandung, West Java, and seven other Catholics also attended the meeting.

Tarida Panjaitan, from the Philadelphia Church of the Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) in Tambun Utara, said it is improper to pray on the sidewalks. We want to worship in a proper place.
Pelted with rotten eggs
She said a crowd pelted her and other Church members with rotten eggs last week while they were conducting a service in the open.

Church members were praying in the street after the Bekasi Regency Administration halted construction of their church following protests by local residents.

Reverend Palti Panjaitan, also from Philadelphia Church, urged legislators to press national and local authorities into ensuring all citizens have a place of worship. This included issuing church building permits so that all citizens, without exception, may worship in accordance with their religions or beliefs.

The pastor also asked for police protection, particularly for Christians who had been attacked while worshipping. Legislators, he said, must ensure that police will not allow any effort that hampers the building of worship venues, or destroys them.

Bishop Pujasumarta said that Catholics were very concerned over interreligious harmony and church attacks.

He told UCA News that his visit to the House of Representatives was to help develop democracy in the country. I hope legislators can do their main duty of representing the Indonesian people, including Catholics.

The Church representatives also provided legislators with information on a string of church-building disputes: 108 cases between 2004 and 2007, 14 in 2008, and 10 in 2009.

One legislator, Gayus Lumbuun, acknowledged that some people do not uphold existing laws. He pledged that his commission will make efforts to prevent church attacks and would demand the national police chief take responsibility for any violence aimed at Christians.

IJ08796.1588 February 11, 2010 43 EM-lines (383 words)

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