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Bogor sticks to church
closure

The Bogor administration brushed off the solution offered by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s think tanks to the standoff over the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin’s building permit, returning the long-standing dispute to square one.

An official with the Bogor administration said Thursday that the letter sent by Mayor Diani Budiarto on Wednesday was “misinterpreted” by the President’s Advisory Council and the National Defense Council (Wantannas) on which the latter parties based their proposal of building a mosque adjacent to the church as a trade-off for opening the church for services.

“The letter was mistakenly interpreted. The case was pretty much closed when the church management and Taman Yasmin residents dismissed the mayor’s offer to build a mosque next to the church in September 2011. It [the church] should then be relocated,” said Ade Sarip Hidayat, the mayor’s assistant for administrative affairs, in a major reversal on the issue.

“For now, we hold onto the decision made at the House of Representatives that put the case in the hands of the central government and the administration for a solution,” he told The Jakarta Post in an interview, dismissing questions as to whether the President’s think tanks were not seen as proxy for the central government.

In February, after a meeting with the relevant ministries, the National Ombudsman, the National Police, as well as the Bogor administration and the church’s members, the House ignored the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of GKI Yasmin and told the churchgoers to renegotiate the dispute with the local administration.

The House mandated the central government to step in and provide room for mediation of the conflict.

The Advisory Council and Wan-tannas stepped in and brokered a month-long negotiation process between the disputing parties, but Diani never attended the meetings.

Wantannas secretary-general Lt. Gen. Junianto Haroen said Wednesday that the mayor’s idea to build the mosque matched the council’s, and therefore concluded that the dispute could be near a settlement.

GKI Yasmin spokesman Bona Sigalingging said that the Bogor administration had not proposed any such compromise to the churchgoers.

“The idea came from Wantannas last March. We will never agree to relocate, but we would welcome the idea to build a mosque next to the church. We support the country’s principle of Unity in Diversity,” he said.

The city administration previously said that the church’s existence could harm religious harmony in the area.

Syahril Ilhami, a resident of the Taman Yasmin housing complex, disputed the claim.

“We are fine with the church’s location in this residence. It is the outsiders who distract the parishioners from performing religious activities. The residents of Taman Yasmin are OK with the church and we just want to live in harmony,” he said, adding that building a mosque near the church’s location was not necessary.

Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Nasaruddin Umar said he welcomed the suggestion to build an adjacent mosque as a solution to the problem.

“As long as it has been reached through common understanding and consensus, I think we should be grateful about that,” he told the Post at the State Palace on Thursday.

Opposition to the “win-win” compromise came from human rights activists and political observers. According to Indonesian Human Rights Committee for Social Justice’s (IHCS) chief executive, Gunawan, the government should not have required GKI Yasmin to accept the construction of the mosque.

“Religious minorities should not be obligated to appease majority groups for the right to worship.”

Driyarkara School of Philosophy sociologist B. Herry-Priyono said Thursday that the proposal was “a very ridiculous idea” that would create even more tension, adding that the followers of each religion would need at least 200 to 300 meters of space from the other group. (png/asa)

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