Depok told to open dialogue over church

Following his decision to revoke a building permit for a church in Cinere, Depok Mayor Nurmahmudi Ismail is told to open room for dialogue to prevent potential conflicts, a noted Muslim scholar says.

“Nurmahmudi has to be open about the reason behind his decision [to revoke the building], since the decision has so far created more tension for Christians in the area,” Azyumardi Azra, a professor at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University told The Jakarta Post.

“Moreover, the decision will not only potentially affect the relationship between Christians and Muslims in the area, but also Christians with the local [Depok] administration.”

Azyumardi also urged Nurmahmudi to find a solution for the church congregation should he insist on revoking the church’s building permit.

“Relocating the church, for example, could be a viable solution for them,” he said.

On March 27, Nurmahmudi, also former president of the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), issued a municipal ordinance to cancel the building permit for a church in the Bukit Cinere Indah (BCI) residential complex in Depok, which belongs to the Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP) congregation.

The cancellation came as a response to a series of letters sent by the church construction committee last year asking the mayor about the status of the church.

In 1998, the committee received the church’s building permit from the administration, but left the land untouched for almost 10 years since former Depok mayor Badrul Kamal suggested the committee stop the church’s construction in May 1999, following a series of protests from locals.

In September 2008, the committee decided to continue building the church, but came to a standstill after dozens of Muslim residents from the Muslim Solidarity Forum (FSUI) attacked the workers and sealed the construction site.

After the attack, the committee sent three letters to Nurmahmudi asking the mayor to facilitate a dialogue, without receiving any response except the unexpected building permit cancellation.  
The HKBP, represented by lawyer Junimart Girsang, filed a lawsuit earlier this month to the State Administrative Court in Bandung, to get the revocation cancelled.

According to a 2007 Ministerial decree, a new house of worship must have the support of at least 90 congregation members, the consent of the local administration and at least 60 residents of different faiths.

Firdaus Amin, a BCI resident and a FSUI leader, said the residents in the complex would continue to stand in the way of the church’s construction, claiming the HKBP had manipulated the procedure to obtain the building permit.

“They faked the residents’ signatures to complete the administrative procedures,” said Firdaus, who has been living in the complex for 15 years.

Meanwhile, Betty Sitorus, the construction committee deputy head and also a resident in the complex, denied rumors that the church’s construction was an attempt to “Christianize” local residents.

“Our congregation only shelters the Batak community. We talk and preach in the Batak language. So how could we ‘Christianize’ the locals?” she said.  

Without their own church, the HKBP congregation, which currently has more than 350 families, have to borrow the Bahtera Allah church in Pangkalan Jati, Pondok Labu, South Jakarta to host masses. (hwa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost .com/news/2009/05/13/depok-told-open-dialogue-over-church.html

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2 Responses

  1. I live in Bukit Cinere Indah and this information is truly new for me. I know that there has been attempts to prevent the church being built, but the mayor’s personal decision to revoke the building is new to me. This is absurd. There is a big sign when people enter Bukit Cinere, saying that people of the complex do not support the building of the HKBP church. Total nonsense. I come home everyday and the sign appalls me big time. The more “powerful” (or should I say shallow) residents in the complex make sure that the sign doesn’t get torn or worn out. They’ve renewed it several times. What’s the whole fear about being Christinized? We were more open minded about issues like this hundreds of years ago than we are today. Total setback! Nurmahmudi should stick to handle the road problem in Cinere. We have hell holes on our roads!
    Thank you for posting this.

  2. dialog…… dialog.. we need solution…!!!!

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