City

GKI Yasmin Church barred
from holding services,
again

Members of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) were again banned from holding Sunday services as the Bogor City Administration has continued to seal off their church.

Learning from last week’s experience, when members of the GKI Yasmin congregation broke into the church and held a mass, officers from the Bogor Public Order Agency locked the church at midnight.

“We were turned away and called to disperse at 6:30 a.m.,” church spokesperson Bona Sigalingging said.

The Bogor administration’s decision to seal the church contravenes a recent Supreme Court verdict that overturned the city’s request to uphold a lower court’s decision to shut down the church.

Lawyers for the congregation received the verdict on Jan. 13.

Bona said members of his congregation were still victims, in spite of their legal victory.

“Police should have arrested those who instigated the unrest instead of forcing us out. This is a challenge to the national legal system,” Bona said.

Activists were quick to condemn the church closure.

“This is in violation of the law because GKI Yasmin’s legality has been upheld by the Supreme Court,” Setara Institute researcher Ismail Hasani said.

“The Supreme Court has clearly ruled that the church is legitimate,” he said.

Ismail said the Bogor administration’s argument about the church being a source of conflict was unfounded as the closure would only deepen the horizontal conflicts in society.

The closure also proved that the Bogor administration had bowed to the demands of hard-line groups, he said.

“The Bogor administration prefers to respect the view of radical groups rather than follow the orders of the highest judicial authority in this country,” Ismail said.

Ismail called on the central government to do something about the church closure lest it be seen as bowing to pressure from hard-liners.

“This could set a bad precedent and could undermine the authority of the Supreme Court. The central government should do something. Not only has the Bogor administration infringed upon the basic rights of citizens, it has also thumbed its nose at the Supreme Court,” he said.

The Bogor administration has said it cannot reopen the church because it has yet to receive a copy of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The administration cited complaints from local residents about the church’s construction, saying it would become a hub for proselytizing in the Muslim-majority city.

The Bandung administrative court earlier overturned the administration’s decision to close the church.

The Bogor administration is led by Mayor Diani Budiarto, who ran with the support of the Democratic Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and several other parties.

Diani’s deputy, PKS politician Achmad Ru’yat, was detained last week for alleged misuse of the city budget while he was a member of the local council.

A politician from the PDI-P, Budiman Sudjatmiko, said that members of the congregation had every right to practice their faith.

“The stance of the PDI-P is that we support the legality of GKI Yasmin,” Budiman said.

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