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26 October 2011

Indonesian Church Denied Site as New Bill Threatens Freedoms

(Compass Direct News) – Members of a church in Bogor, West Java, are determined to continue meeting outside their sealed building each Sunday until they are granted freedom to worship inside it, despite a ban on street meetings issued by the local mayor

“The church will never give up meeting together,” a local source who preferred to remain unnamed said of the Indonesian Christian Church (Gereja Kristen Indonesia, or GKI), in the Yasmin area of Bogor.

The ban on street meetings forced church members to worship at an alternative location on Sunday (Oct. 23).

Amid the stand-off, religious freedom for groups such as the Yasmin church would be dramatically reduced under a “Religious Tolerance Bill” under consideration by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, critics of the proposal say. A constitutional debate is raging in Indonesia over the bill.

On Oct. 9,Yasmin church members and police officers clashed on the street in front of the sealed church building over the Christians’ right to meet there. According to local media reports, West Java police are now investigating complaints filed by both sides; a police chief has accused church members of knocking him unconscious, while the church has countersued police for disrupting its service.

In defiance of a Supreme Court order early this year affirming Yasmin’s constitutional right to freedom of worship, Bogor Mayor Diani Budianto canceled the church’s worship permit, locked and sealed their church building and banned church members from meeting on the street (see www.compassdirect.org, “Mayor in Indonesia Again Balks at Granting Church Permit,” Aug. 15). The permit had been hard-earned; under terms of a 2006 Joint Ministerial Decree, all churches must meet strict criteria to qualify for a church worship permit, including proof of at least 90 church members, signatures of approval from at least 60 local residents, and approval from village officials and a local interfaith forum.

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