There was no Sunday service again this week for the congregants of HKBP Filadelfia in Tambun, Bekasi, West Java, after local residents blockaded a road leading to the church
Locals have been protesting the congregation’s Sunday service for many months; the last Sunday service was held in December, a few days prior to Christmas.
Approximately 300 officers from the Bekasi Police and Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) tried to provide security on Sunday.
"Watch out for people not wearing a hijab. Don't let them pass. If necessary, chase them!" a local resident said into a megaphone.
Around 200 men, women and children of Jejalen Jaya formed a human wall across the road, preventing churchgoers from passing.
The abuse shouted by locals caused some congregants to cry.
"We just want to worship. There are five legally recognized religions in Indonesia, so why aren't we allowed to perform our prayers?" Rita Simanulang, a congregant, said.
"Our rights are guaranteed by Constitution. So why are you asking us to leave? You should be the one who protects us," she said to a public order officer.
Under a 2006 joint ministerial decree, a place of worship can only be built if it has secured the approval of 90 worshipers and 60 local residents from different faiths.
The dispute has been ongoing for years; however, HKBP Filadelfia’s Rev. Palti Panjaitan said that the church had already obtained the necessary legal paperwork, claiming that the Bekasi administration’s decision to close the church in 2010 was overturned at the State Administrative Court in Bandung, West Java, in 2011.
Saduddin, the regent of Tambun, has not implemented the ruling.
There is some hope for the church’s congregants, with the blockade occurring just one day prior to the inauguration of Neneng Yasmin as Tambun regent, officially replacing Saduddin, a politician from the Justice Prosperous Party (PKS), on Monday.
Palti said that he hoped the blockade would be the last, saying that compared to her predecessor, Neneng might be more tolerant of minority groups.
According to Palti, Saduddin is known for his close ties with Islamic hard-line groups, previously promising during his election campaign for Tambun regency that "not a single church would be built under his watch". (sat)