The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Monday January 12 2015
The country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) has revved up efforts to reach a resolution to the prolonged Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin saga in Bogor, West Java, by volunteering to mediate between the disputed parties.
NU executive council Bogor chapter head Ifan Haryanto said on Sunday that he had started communications with disputed parties to pave the way for a conclusion.
The newly installed leader said the organization opted to get involved in the dispute because it was bothered by the impact the prolonged saga had created.
“The issue has attracted international attention so this is not only about Bogor but about Indonesia. Whenever we meet with ambassadors, they often ask us about GKI Yasmin updates. So this case clearly has a political impact,” Ifan told The Jakarta Post.
“We don’t want Indonesia to be perceived as a radical and intolerant country. We also don’t want the international community to think Indonesian Muslims are barbaric. As a Bogor resident and as a Muslim, I am committed to upholding Islam that follows the value of rahmatan lil alamin [grace for all people],” he added.
Ifan admitted that the efforts had not always been easy, despite the fact that the organization had strong influence in society.
“The parties have conflicting stances that can never be reconciled; one of them wants to build a church while the other opposes it. So we use different approaches to communicate with the parties, including the Bogor administration, the GKI Yasmin congregation and Islamic fundamentalists who oppose the construction of the Yasmin church.
“I have separately talked to them as their friend and said that if this goes on, the case would not only hurt Bogor residents, but all Indonesian citizens,” he said.
To make room for progressive discussions, Ifan called on the parties “to take one step backward because that’s the only possible way to make progress”.
Ifan acknowledged that the responses shown by the parties, including “radical groups that uphold different schools of thought”, had been positive.
“We are using different approaches for different parties. But we mostly use informal approaches, except when communicating with the Bogor administration. Thus far, we have received strong signs that all of them want this case to be resolved. I am upbeat that it will be, though I can’t predict how long it will take to achieve a conclusion,” he said.
GKI Yasmin spokesman Bona Sigalingging said the congregation had responded positively to NU’s gesture on the matter.
“We have a long history with NU as NU figures have long been assisting us in fighting for our rights to build our church. We also feel comfortable with them because we know that they are committed to upholding the Constitution,” he told the Post.
Wahid Institute deputy director Rumadi lauded NU’s move to intervene in the dispute.
“Large Muslim organizations like NU and Muhammadiyah can’t turn a blind eye to the matter as they are perceived as organizations that have deep roots and can maintain balance in society,” he said.
He said he was upbeat that the gesture would have a positive impact, “so long as the organizations can earn trust from all disputed parties”.
In 2010, the Supreme Court rejected a request from the Bogor City Planning and Parks Agency to overturn a decision made by the Jakarta High Court, which ordered the agency to revoke a decision to freeze the church’s building permit (IMB).
However, then Bogor mayor Diani Budiarto eventually revoked the church’s IMB.
Despite campaign promises that Bogor Mayor Bima Arya would prioritize finding a resolution to the GKI Yasmin saga, Bona admitted there had been few signs of progress on the matter.