In this file photo, taken in April 2010, the congregation of the Indonesian Christian Church holds a Sunday service in an empty lot in front of their church in Taman Yasmin, Bogor, West Java, after the municipal administration sealed off their church for no known reason. (JP/Theresia Sufa)
Despite a court ruling allowing the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Bogor to stay at its current location, the saga surrounding it is apparently far from over.
A statement by GKI Yasmin and NGOs supporting it on Saturday revealed that a visit from Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi and ministry officials in a meeting held at Hotel Salak, Bogor, on Friday hinted that the government was siding with the town administration to relocate the church.
Others present at the meeting included Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto and representatives of the Muslim Communications Forum (Forkami) – a hard-line religious group known for its stance against GKI Yasmin.
GKI Yasmin spokesman Bona Sigalingging said the discussion did not lead to a commitment to comply with the law.
“The government, along with the Bogor administration, restated at the meeting that GKI Yasmin should move from its current location. Such a statement is in breach of the court ruling,” Bona said.
The Supreme Court ruled against the Bogor city administration, ordering the church be allowed to reopen.
Since 2010, GKI Yasmin has been unable to conduct services in the church after the city administration revoked a permit that it had previously issued.
The Indonesian Ombudsman’s Office also urged the Bogor city administration to withdraw its 2011 decree annulling the church’s construction permit.
In May, the President’s Advisory Council and the National Defense Council (Wantannas) brokered a month-long negotiation between the church and the Bogor administration to build a mosque adjacent to the church.
However, Bona said, the mayor remained defiant now with the government backing him.
“Relocation means eviction and law violations. GKI Yasmin objects to being relocated anywhere at anytime,” he said.
Supporting GKI Yasmin’s stance, Bonar Tigor Naipospos of the Setara Institute said at a media conference in Jakarta on Saturday that Friday’s meeting had shown that the government tended to solve problems involving minority groups by ruling them out rather than accommodating them.
“The government keeps suggesting relocations as solutions for the Ahmadis, Shiites and GKI Yasmin cases. This will only lead to further segregation,” he said.
Ali Akbar Tanjung from the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) said at the media conference that the situation would further taint Indonesia’s human rights record, which would be reviewed by the United Nation Human Rights Council in its universal periodic review (UPR) within the next few weeks.
“The government promised to improve back in May. How can it fulfill its promise if the Home Ministry pressures GKI Yasmin like this?” Ali said.
A series of recommendations proposed by nations participating in May’s UPR discussed the persecution of minority groups in Indonesia, with a recommendation that Indonesia “should strengthen efforts to ensure that any assaults against religious minorities are properly investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice”.
GKI Yasmin is one of several examples of the lack of protection for Indonesia’s minority groups. Its congregation resorted to conducting services on the pavement in front of the church for more than two years. During services outside the church, they constantly faced harassment from groups of protesters – including from Forkami.
Fearing further aggravation from hard-liners, members of the Protestant church now hold clandestine services at the houses of congregation members. They have also conducted Sunday services in front of the State Palace, to further their case with the government. (aml)