Twenty churches in Singkil regency, Aceh, have been closed down and are likely to be demolished by the local administration.
According to a lawmaker from House of Representatives Commission III on human rights, Eva K. Sundari, the commission received complaints about the forced closure of 20 churches from the United North Sumatra Alliance on Monday.
The core of the problem is the contradictory regulations between the 2007 gubernatorial decree on the guidance of the construction of houses of worship and the 2006 joint ministerial decree governing the construction of houses of worship.
“Under the ministerial decree, a house of worship can only be built if it has secured the approval of 90 worshipers while the gubernatorial decree requires the approval of 150 worshippers,” Eva said Tuesday as quoted by kompas.com.
The ministerial decree also requires the approval of 60 local residents of different faiths.
Worse still, Eva said, was a local edict that forbade Muslims from approving the construction of houses of worship other than mosques, which made it impossible for the churches to fulfill the requirements.
Not only have new churches been forced to close but also the Pakpak Dairi Protestant Church, which was established in 1932. It too is likely to be demolished, she said.
“Guidance from the home minister is needed so that the local consultative forum and the police can be fair and neutral for all citizens and not bow down to intolerant groups,” she said. (iwa)