Jakarta – Members of the Yasmin Bogor Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) and the Filadelfia Bekasi Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) were again forced to hold their Christmas services in front of the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta on Wednesday December 25.
This is the eighth year running that they have had to hold services there due to difficulties using or building their own houses of worship.
The first time they held services combined with a protest action in front of the Palace was in 2012. And, every two weeks since then they have held weekly services at the same location. This Christmas is the 209th service that they have held in front of the Palace since 2012.
The 2019 Christmas service by the Yasmin Bogor GKI and the Filadelfia Bekasi HKBP was joined by scores of people including children, youths and adults.
Yasmin Bogor GKI and Bekasi Filadelfia HKBP coordinator for church services, Jayadi Damanik, commented on the problems they have faced related their churches. Since 2008, said Damanik, the government has tried to shift responsibility for solving the Yasmin GKI's problem back and forth.
"In the end responsibility kept getting shifted around. It's because of the joint regulation by the Ministry of Religion and the Ministry of Home Affairs on permits for establishing a place of worship, [responsibility for] this we think is rests fully in the hands of the two ministers", said Damanik following the Christmas service at the Padang Park in front of the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.
Damanik said he appreciates the efforts by Bogor Mayor Bima Arya Sugiarto who earlier said he would issue a new building permit (IMB) for the Yasmin GKI on Jl. KH Abdullah bin Nuh Kav. 3 at the Yasmin Park in Bogor. But, according to Damanik, this move appears to go against the Supreme Court (MK) ruling.
"Because of this if we move to another location it means that that we would also violate the Supreme Court's ruling. Except if the MA ruling no longer stands", he said.
The Supreme Court actually found in favour of the two churches in 2011. They were declared to have the right to construct and use the churches. But, the ruling was ignored by the Bogor mayor and the Bekasi regent.
According to Damanik, what actually happened in this case was that the Bogor municipal government gave into intolerant groups to who did not want the Yasmin GKI church to be established.
"The freezing of the IMB in 2008 was because there was an intolerant group which didn't want it, which was followed by the local government", continued Damanik.
Damanik said that the Yasmin GKI congregation should be able to celebrate Christmas in their own church. But to this day there has been no follow up on the promises that have been made. As a result, for the last eight years they have been forced to hold Christmas services in front of the Presidential Palace.
"To this day the Pak [Mr] (Bogor) mayor is continuing to maintain communication and has said that all forms of communication are being pursued although how far this communication has gone only he knows of course", he said.
"There's still time. Today is the 25th [of December 2019], meaning, yes that there are still around six more days, if we go by his [the mayor's] statement several months ago", he continued.
Meanwhile the Filadelfia HKBP congregation has been forced to repeatedly change places of worship after protesters sealed of the site for their church construction in January 2010.
The church mass in front of the Presidential Palace is being used by the Bekasi and Bogor congregation to gain attention from the central government. The aim is to pressure their respective local governments to oppose the sealing off of their churches. (thr/kid)
The 2006 Joint Ministerial Decree on Houses Of Worship issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs, obliges a congregation to ensure approval from at least 60 households in the immediate vicinity of a planned new site. That stipulation, however, has been lambasted by rights groups for making it next to impossible for congregations of minority faiths to build houses of worship in areas which have a Muslim majority.
In 2008, the Bogor city administration issued a decree freezing the GKI church's building permit (IMB). In 2010 the Bandung State Administrative Court (PTUN) and the State Administrative High Court in Jakarta ruled in favor of the GKI Yasmin Church and ordered the administration to revoke the decree. The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of GKI Yasmin in 2010. In 2011 however, former Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto revoked the church's building permit leaving the church with no permit at all. The HKBP Filadelfia faced a similar problem with the Bekasi administration sealing off the site where their church was to be built in 2010. Both the Bandung and Jakarta PTUN, as well as the Supreme Court, ruled in favor of HKBP Filadelfia in 2011. However, the congregations were still unable to use the churches as both administrations ignored the rulings.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Sewindu, Umat GKI Yasmin-HKBP Filadelfia Natal di Luar Istana".]