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Jakarta Post

Semarang LBH condemns halt to yet another church project

  • Ivany Atina Arbi
    Ivany Atina Arbi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, April 17, 2020   /   10:33 am
Semarang LBH condemns halt to yet another church project The construction site of Semarang Baptist Church stands shuttered on Aug. 5, 2019. The site was sealed when Hendrar Prihadi, the mayor of the city in Central Java, bowed to pressures from non-Christian residents and announced that he would be reviewing the project's building permit. (Tribun Jateng/Jamal Al Nashr)

A Baptist church has become the latest Christian construction project to be halted in Semarang, Central Java, following protests from non-Christian residents in a sign of growing religious intolerance among the majority Muslim population.

Local protests over the construction of churches have become common in many predominantly Muslim areas in Indonesia, with local authorities tending to side with protestors In some, if not most, cases. 

In a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Thursday, the Semarang Legal Aid Institute (LBH), which legally represents Tlogosari Baptist Church, said that officials from the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) had come and put a halt to ongoing construction on the church.

LBH Semarang said that the action had no any legal basis and showed that officials were bowing to pressure from "intolerant groups".

"What the agency is doing is a form of abuse of power and violates the law," it said in the statement, stressing that the church construction project had already secured the necessary building permit (IMB).

Read also: Permit for Riau Islands church revoked over local fears 'it may turn into an icon'

A group of Semarang residents held a protest at City Hall on March 6 to demand that the church's construction be stopped. The protest group claimed that the project had obtained the IMB through "deceit" by getting them to sign a blank paper.

Wahyudi, the head of Tlogosari Baptist Church, was quick to dismiss the accusation, saying that the church organization had openly asked for the residents' permission to proceed with the project in 1998, when it first applied for the permit.

A 2006 joint ministerial decree requires that all development projects for places of worship, no matter the religion, must obtain 90 signatures from followers of the religion, as well as 60 signatures from followers of other religions who live near the planned site of the development, before the project may be proposed.