The Jakarta Globe, December 25, 2013.
Bogor. The embattled GKI Yasmin congregation in Bogor, West Java celebrated yet another Christmas in a makeshift worship space this year, in exile from their own church, which remains sealed off despite two Supreme Court rulings in the congregation’s favor.
“It has been several times that we’ve kept our religious conduct hidden, from one place to another place,” Dori Susanto, a 60-year-old congregant, said on Christmas. “We will keep doing this until we can do it in our rightful place of worship.”
The congregation obtained a permit to open the church in 2006, but it was promptly revoked by the municipality, at the behest of Muslim-majority local residents and hardline groups.
Bima Arya Sugiarto, who was elected mayor of Bogor in September, has pledged to review the situation, but he is not slated to assume office until April.
On Wednesday at 7 a.m, Dori set out from her house in Curugmekar, West Bogor, to the congregation’s makeshift shelter on Jalan Kayumanis in Curug, West Bogor.
In the he shelter, which has a roof but no walls, dozens of congregants, led by priest Nathan Setiabudi, began a simple, solemn service at 7:30 a.m. sharp.
Dori said she would never tire of attending church meetings with her family, regardless of the conditions, because she saw it as part of a bigger fight.
“We do the right thing and we are not afraid,” she said.
Congregation spokesman Bona Sigalingging said that the group did not wish to continue operating off the grid but that they were determined to continue until the situation could be corrected.
“Underground religious activities are actually a message for the government that in this democratic country, there is still the discriminatory practice of sealing religious places,” Bona said.
At the congregation’s shuttered church in Taman Yasmin, Bogor, some 300 policemen, soliders and local public order officials (Satpol PP) stood guard.
Members of hardline groups were also seen on the premises.
“My decision remains the same: GKI Yasmin members will be sent away if they insist on conducting their Christmas activities at the church location,” Mayor Diani Budiartosaid on Tuesday.
Ngatwono, 57, also a congregant, said he hoped the new mayor would break the five-year seal.
“I believe that under Bima Arya the city administration will allow us to use our church,” he said.
Bima, a member of the National Mandate Party, said he would take up the case of the church as one of his first acts as mayor.
“It is a challenge for him, whether he is brave enough to follow the legal ruling of the Supreme Court,” Ngatwono said.
Turmudi, a figure in the local Muslim community, attended the congregation’s Christmas services in the temporary shelter.
“It is also a religious activity for Muslims to keep ties with others,” he said.