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End to long-running church row in sight, Indonesian mayor says

Dispute over closure of Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church in Bogor 'will be resolved this year'

End to long-running church row in sight, Indonesian mayor says

Bima Arya Sugiarto, mayor of Bogor, speaks to journalists on Aug. 13. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)

A dispute which has seen a Protestant church in Indonesia sealed off for the past nine years will be resolved by the end of the year, according to the local mayor where it is located.

The mayor of Bogor in West Java province has assured members of the Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church that a final resolution to the dispute is close at hand.

The dispute centers around a building permit that was canceled in 2011 in defiance of Supreme Court and Ombudsman rulings that said the church was legal.

Revocation of the permit came after the mayor at the time bowed to pressure in 2010 from hard-line Muslims who wanted the church torn down, church members say.

Attempts to resolve the issue have since reached an impasse, but the new Bogor mayor’s comments have given church members new hope.

“I am optimistic that there will be good news this Christmas. We have all agreed to focus on a solution instead of debating legal issues as was done in the past,” Mayor Bima Arya Sugiarto told reporters on Aug. 13.

“We have good communication with all related parties, which is more intensive.” 

He was referring to Yasmin church members as well as the city’s Ulema Council branch and Interfaith Communication Forum.

Bima refused to elaborate on what the outcome would be. “I do not want to talk about strategies because we are still going through the process of communication. It is premature to talk about it,” he said.

Bima was speaking after a rights group, the SETARA Institute for Democracy and Peace, revealed that 91 West Java bylaws were discriminative, including the 2011 mayors’ decree canceling the church permit.

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Since then the Protestant church’s congregation have held Sunday services outside the Presidential Palace in Jakarta to call for the reopening of their church. On Aug. 18, they will hold their 200th service there.

The church’s spokesman, Bona Sigalingging, said Bima was showing a strong commitment to settling the issue. 

However, he urged the mayor to stick to a promise to resolve the dispute when he first took office.  

“Mr. Bima knows exactly what we want: our church to be reopened. All he needs to do is act. Just like in a game of football, we are waiting for him to kick the ball,” Bona said. 

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