Church woes attract US attention

Religious leaders offer support to Christians
Church woes attract US attention
A pastor reads a letter from interfaith leaders during Easter service (Siktus Harson)
Religious leaders from the United States sent an Easter letter of support to Protestants whose church in West Java was closed by local authorities three years ago.

“We, as diverse faith leaders in the United States stand in solidarity with your community as you strive to express your religious beliefs in freedom and without fear of persecution,” the Jewish, Muslim and Protestant leaders said in their letter to the Christian Church in Indonesia (GKI), Taman Yasmin congregation.

The letter was read aloud in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta during an Easter service organized by the GKI and the Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) Philadelphia, both restricted churches in this Muslim-majority country.

“We were deeply saddened to learn of the harassment that your community faces in Indonesia, a religiously diverse and vibrant country that faces many challenges in protecting the human rights of all its citizens, including the right to freedom of religious expression among people of minority faith traditions,” the letter said.

“We stand together against the desecration of all holy places,” it continued.

The GKI Taman Yasmin congregation has been banned from using their church because of alleged irregularities regarding a 2006 building application. A Supreme Court ruling which has been backed by the Ombudsman saying the congregation has the right to worship in the church, has been ignored by the local mayor. Protestants from the HKBP of Philadelphia are embroiled in a similar case.

Both GKI Taman Yasmin and HKBP Philadelphia have been organizing services in front of the Presidential Palace since February 2012.

“We want President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately take action,” GKI Taman Yasmin’s spokesman Bona Sigalingging told “We’ve raised this many times before, but there is no solution.”

About 200 church members and human rights activists attended the Easter service.

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