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BerichtOnderwerp: difficult.., to have a one-eyed view with two eyes?   difficult.., to have a one-eyed view with two eyes? Icon_minitimeza 16 feb 2013 - 22:52

The Jakarta Globe, 16-02-2013,

It's Easy for a Church to Get a Building Permit: Home Affairs Ministry

The Home Affairs Ministry claims that there would be less religious conflict between Christians and Islamic fundamentalist groups in Indonesia, if churches simply abided with the government’s regulation to secure a building permit, which the ministry believes is easy to obtain.

“There are groups that purposely maintain the conflict to make it out as if the government does not want to solve conflicts, or to create the impression that Indonesia is an intolerant land full of conflicts,” said Reydonnyzar Monoek, the Home Affairs Ministry spokesman. “Some people exploit the situation to get the benefit from the tension created.”

Reydonnyzar added that religious conflicts between Christians and fundamentalist Muslims were mostly caused by the churches that refused to obtain building permits before they started construction.

“The problem is that they build and then worship in the churches without a building permit. That ends up triggering opposition from residents,” he said.

Under a joint ministerial decree in 2006, Article 14 stipulates that a religious organization requires formal support from at least 60 people from the local community who agree with the construction of a house of worship. The construction must also be validated by the urban ward chief and have the recommendation from the local Religious Affairs Ministry’s office and Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB) to get a permit.

Reydonnyzar claimed that recent attacks on Christian churches only occurred because they did not have a valid permit.

“The bad thing is, while the churches failed to provide the requirement, the media has already blown up the situation, making it out as if there was intolerant conflicts and pressure on the minority,” Reydonnyzar said. “It’s only about the permit, don’t exaggerate it into a big problem of intolerance.”

Jeirry Sumampow, the Diakonia secretary of the Protestant Church Union (PGI), told the Jakarta Globe that in 2012 there were nearly 40 churches who had trouble obtaining a building permit. Jeirry said that in most cases, the local government had refused to issue a permit following rejection from Islamic groups, not the local residents.

“In 2011, there were like 61 churches who were waiting to get permit,” he said. “Besides rejection, the long bureaucracy has also hampered the process.

Fundamentalist rejection

While the central government considers that it is easy for churches to obtain a permit, as long as they meet the requirements, some district governments prefer to listen to the objection of fundamentalist groups.

“It was a mistake to think that the rejection comes from the residents,” said Antonius Benny Susetyo, executive secretary of the Commission of the Indonesian Bishops Conference, adding that most of the churches had established good communications with the residents. “These [fundamentalist] groups, out of nowhere, suddenly come and force the government to not approve the permit request.”

Antonius said that the Catholic church Damai Kristus in Tambora, West Java, which faces building permit issues, was rejected by a mosque forum outside the neighborhood and not from the local residents.

“The same case also happened at the Parung [St. Johannes Baptista] Church in Bogor,” he added. “Outsiders rallied against us, and in fear of them, the government refused to issue the permit.”

A group calling itself the Muslim Community of Parung Bogor placed a banner near the church stating its support for the mayor to outlaw the parish’s activities.

It’s all about the money and bureaucracy

Antonius believes that the Home Affairs Ministry fails to understand the real situation in the field.

“It’s not as easy as he [Reydonnyzar] thinks,” Antonius explained. “Sometimes the churches can easily get the 60 signatures from residents as required. But then to get the urban ward chief to validate it, it takes time. At the end, the churches have to pay for the urban ward chiefs before they want to validate the data. After that, the churches have to face long bureaucracy at the district or city office which also needs money.”

Antonius said that sometimes a church could wait for 25 years before receiving a permit. He said that the St. Johannes Baptista Church in Bogor was still waiting for the government to issue them with a permit that they applied for 10 years ago.

“The number of church members is more than 12,000. They have fulfilled all the requirements, but the local government refuses to process the application. Is it our fault, or the governments?” Antonius said about the church.

Jeirry agreed that the long bureaucracy and tradition of bribes with the government had also hampered the process. He said that the Banua Niho Keriso Protestan (BNKP) church in Bandung Kulon in West Java, had been trying to obtain a permit for 10 years.

“They have been established as a church for more than 40 years, and they have been asking for a permit since 2002. They spent millions to give to the neighborhood unit chief, community unit chief, subdistrict chief, religious figures and many others to get the church permit. But up until today, it still has not been issued,” Jeirry said.

Jeirry added that some church organizations were often left disappointed when middlemen who offered services to obtain a permit from the government, failed to deliver on their promises.


Reydonnyzar insisted that the only solution for religious conflicts between Christians and Islamic fundamentalists to stop was for churches to abide with regulations for a building permit.

“The government is more than ready to assist with the conflict, but [the churches] should fulfill their obligation [to get the permit],” he said. “They [churches] should meet the requirements and then the local governments would not hesitate to issue a permit.”

Regarding the case of the GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor, whose building permit was revoked by the mayor, Reydonnyzar said that the local government had been more than willing to provide a solution.

“They prepared Rp 10 billion ($1 million) for the church administrator to move [their church] and build it elsewhere to prevent tension with residents, but the church refused,” he said. “We want to help, but it was not accepted. It’s because they want to prolong the conflict.”

As for Antonius, he believes that the problem stems from the local government’s fear of fundamentalist groups.

“If the government firmly abide with the regulation and ignores the rejection, there will be no problems,” he said. “It is their obligation to provide house of worships as facilities for all religions.”

Johan Tumanduk, the synod secretary of the Protestant Church of Western Indonesia (GPIB), said that churches should establish better relationships with local people to prevent conflicts.

“From our experience, if we can build a good relationship with the neighbors, it can take a year to get the permit,” Johan said. “If there’s a problem, it could take us two to three years.”

Johan added that the downside of Protestant churches having several denominations was that they could not work hand in hand to help each other.

“A church tends to ignore the problems of other churches,” he said. “The bargaining position of a church is weak as they try to solve the problems alone, so it is easily attacked by groups. If they can work together, not only pray all the time, but also put their prayers into action, I think it could help to solve the problem.”

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