It came a decade-and-a-half too late, by Bogor Mayor Bima Arya's own admission, but the Taman Yasmin Indonesia Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) congregation now finally, officially have a house of worship to call their own.
On Easter Day, Bima led an inauguration ceremony for the GKI Yasmin church building in the West Java city – an event that was attended by Coordinating Legal, Political, and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD and Home Minister Tito Karnavian, among others.
"There's regret and happiness. Regret that we did not resolve this conflict sooner. We apologize that this came 15 years late. But we're happy that there is a happy ending after 15 years," Bima said in his speech.
In the mid-2000s, GKI Yasmin acquired government approval to build a church, but opposition from Muslim groups in the area stalled construction and eventually forced the church's closure. Despite successful legal appeals – the congregation won a Supreme Court decision in 2010 – local authorities have refused to enforce the decision and the church remains closed.
The dispute has since become one of the most renowned denials to freedom of religious expression through intolerance in Indonesia.
In 2021, the city donated a plot of land measuring 1,668 square meters for the construction of the house of worship, not far from where the church was originally intended to be built. This marked a major early step towards GKI Yasmin congregants finally having a house of worship to call their own.
"The inauguration of this church represents the state's presence in guaranteeing the constitutional rights of its citizens, particularly for adherents of the Christian faith," Mahfud said in yesterday's event.
That being said, a constitutional guarantee for our right to worship should never have come with a 15-year wait. And while GKI Yasmin finally has its space, many other adherents of minority religions who have not received media coverage as widespread as GKI Yasmin are still being denied their houses of worship due to a combination of legal hurdles and religious intolerance.