Indonesia: Authorities deny church building permit in ‘unconstitutional’ move against religious freedom

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by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – Authorities in Indonesia’s province of Banten have denied the Protestant Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) a permit to build a church, in a move described as going against the country’s 1945 constitution guaranteeing religious freedom, the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA) reports.

The Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) Maranatha had officially requested to build a church in Geram village, Banten, where it has 3,903 members who currently have to travel 40 kilometers for Sunday services as they have no church, UCA reports.

Although HKBP Maranatha made sure its request for the building permit abides by a pertinent 2006 joint ministerial decree which regulates houses of worship, local Muslims from the Committee of Local Wisdom Savior in Cilegon publicly opposed the approval. The Islamic group went so far as to launch a protest on September 7 demanding denial of permit in accordance with a 1975 decree providing for the closure of Christian places of worship in the area, UCA said.

In a statement to UCA about the effect of the authorities’ refusal to grant a building permit, Reverend Hotman T.M. Marbun of HKBP Maranatha said: “The lack of a church building is a serious problem for us. The congregation’s spiritual formation cannot be carried out properly. We all believe that a place of worship is the central and strategic venue to educate worshippers properly and to grow the children’s faith.”

Moreover, Reverend Jeirry Sumampow, a spokesman for Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI), told UCA on September 9: “This incident harms the 1945 Constitution, which guarantees equality of every citizen to adhere to a certain religion and to worship freely in accordance to their own religions.”

Indonesia ranks 28th on the US Open Doors World Watch List 2022 of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.

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