The government has vowed to seek a peaceful solution to a protracted dispute over the existence of a church in Bogor, West Java.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam, said the government was committed to ensuring freedom of religion and that it was now looking to mediate between members of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Taman Yasmin and local residents who oppose the church’s existence.
Dipo did not elaborate on a solution, only saying that “the government will not allow the conflict to continue and will not leave it unresolved. There will be a peaceful and comprehensive solution to it.”
He regretted the absence of the Home Ministry in any mediation, which he said should be handled by the central government despite the regional autonomy.
“Where is the home minister? The religious affairs minister belongs to all religious communities, including the Protestant community,” he said.
According to Dipo, officials from the ministry should have spoken directly to the Bogor mayor, the GKI congregation and local residents opposing the church building, to prevent the conflict from escalating.
He admitted that violence linked with freedom of religion had increased this year because authorities were reluctant to meet with all parties and maintain religious freedom.
He was also critical of those who blamed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a lack of action in settling sectarian conflicts.
“The President has always taken a tough stance on sectarian issues but relevant authorities do not implement it in accordance with the law,” he said.
Parishioners at GKI Yasmin Church said on Thursday that they wanted action from the President as they had been barred from attending their own church for three years despite a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that orders Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto to allow them the right to worship in their church.
The Bogor administration insisted on sealing the church despite the ruling, saying that the church’s existence could further trigger conflict with residents living around the site.
A spokesman of the church, Bona Sigalingging, said he praised President Yudhoyono for acknowledging their right to worship in their own church.
Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha was quoted as saying Yudhoyono had repeatedly asked the Bogor mayor to abide by the Supreme Court ruling.
But the congregation is still unable to worship in their church. Their last attempt to hold a Christmas Mass at the church failed amid protests from Muslim hardliners.