Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 13 September 2012
Indonesia’s GKI Yasmin Church ordered to relocate in latest blow
Country/Region: Indonesia, South and East Asia
The ongoing campaign against GKI Yasmin Church in Indonesia has taken yet another twist as the authorities have ordered the congregation to relocate, reneging on a previous agreement.
Following a meeting at the weekend involving the Minister for Home Affairs, the Mayor of Bogor, the Indonesia Ulema Council and the leader of Forkami, a radical Islamic group, the Home Affairs Ministry told the church to move from its site in Bogor, West Java.
After years of legal wrangling, an agreement had been reached in May that GKI Yasmin could reopen its sealed-off building provided a mosque was built next door. The church agreed to this, and it seemed that they would finally be allowed to worship in peace.
GKI Yasmin spokesman Bona Sigalingging said he did not understand where the sudden decision to relocate the church had come from and flatly rejected the order:
No matter where, no matter how expensive or beautiful the new location, we will not accept.
The government is preparing replacement land, and the Bogor authorities have allocated up to 10 billion Indonesian Rupiah (£650,000; US$1m) for the construction of a new building.
But that is not the point as far as the church is concerned. A Supreme Court ruling in 2010 ordered that GKI Yasmin’s building, which has been blocked off since 2008, be reopened. Mr Sigalingging said that if the church is relocated, then the rule of law in Indonesia has collapsed.
Home Ministry spokesman Reydonnyzar Moenek acknowledged that the decision did go against the Supreme Court ruling and tried to insist that it was not a violation of religious freedom, adding dismissively, “It’s just an ordinary matter between the mayor and its citizens.”
Mr Sigalingging slammed as “shameful” the decision to invite the leader of Forkami to the meeting that determined the church’s future. He said this radical Islamic group had “fuelled tension” and “succeeded in having us forcibly removed from our church”.
Bogor mayor Diani Budiarto is said to have a long history of appeasing Muslim hard-liners, who have been calling for the church’s closure since 2008.
GKI Yasmin has been holding services in the street in front of its half-constructed building or in private homes.
The church filed a formal complaint with the courts against the Bogor authorities following this latest move against them.
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