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The Jakarta Post
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Pluralistic neighborhoods set example by sharing space

Jakarta | Tue, September 21 2010 | 09:03 am

While in some parts of Bekasi and Bogor relations between Christian congregations and majority-Muslim neighborhoods have soured over vetoed plans to build churches, the interfaith interplay is fine in several other parts of the city.

Residents of Klender, East Jakarta, and Cikoko, South Jakarta, for instance, have been living in harmony for decades.

In crowded area of Klender, four small churches, including a Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church, are surrounded by several mosques, mushollas (smaller mosques) and an Islamic school.

“If our neighbors need space for their activities, we can accommodate them at our building and church front yard, free of charge,” local Catholic priest Dedo da Gomez told The Jakarta Post recently.

Dedo, who was speaking with some of his neighbors when the Post visited his St. Joachim Catholic church, said the church had been conducting its religious activities in the majority-Muslim neighborhood for more than 25 years without any disturbances whatsoever.

Dedo said this could be regarded as tolerance between people of different faiths.

“Our Muslim neighbors even help us provide parking spaces and security during Christmas and Easter celebrations,” church caretaker Joseph Triyogowayono said.

“We have never received any complaints from our neighbors, even though the narrow streets are always packed with cars belonging to the congregation during big celebrations,” Joseph said.

Most streets in the neighborhood are only wide enough for one car to pass one at a time. “The four churches have had support from the local community. If there are religious conflicts in the future, you can be sure that outsiders provoked the residents of this peace-loving neighborhood,” Dedo said.

One Muslim resident, Pardi, 57, said respecting other believers was part of the everyday life of the neighborhood.

“We have worked side by side to build a peaceful place by maintaining good relations with each other.

For example, from time to time we work together to clean up our neighborhood,” said Pardi, the owner of a motorcycle wash shop who grew up in the neighborhood.

He admitted that the good relations between residents of different religions were “fragile” and susceptible to provocation.

Another Muslim resident, Doni Beswara, 37, originally from Jambi, expressed his disbelief at the recent turn of events in Bogor and Bekasi, West Java, where the local community had opposed plans to build churches.

“As Muslims, we have lived in harmony for many years with the nearby HKBP church,” he said, referring to last week’s attack and stabbing of two HKBP church leaders in Bekasi.

Interfaith tension has also increased in Bogor since, citing complaints from local residents, the city administration revoked a building permit for a church two years after it was issued. On Sunday, the administration sealed off the site.

However, peaceful coexistence can be seen in other neighborhoods too, such as that on Jl. Cikoko Barat in South Jakarta.

The small Simalungun Protestant Church (GKPS) congregation has been running its activities in the majority-Muslim neighborhood for more than 10 years.

“We have built up a good relationship with our neighbors. We always try to involve our neighbors in our social activities,” church caretaker Momon said.

“Every year during Idul Fitri we work with mosque managements to distribute food to poor members of the community.” (rch)

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