Islamic groups aim to shut down church in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia, November 19 (CDN) — More than 50 people from Islamic groups demonstrated against a church in West Java on Nov. 7, chanting for it to stop worshipping during its Sunday service, according to Muslim online news site Arrahmah.com.

The King of Glory church of the Christian Congregation of Indonesia denomination (Jemat Kristen Indonesia or JKI) was worshipping in the Graha Mulia (Planet of Glory) Multi-purpose Building in Karasak village, Astanaanyar district of Bandung City, when the protestors gathered. Chanting “Allahu akbar [God is greater],” the crowd claimed the building was not approved for worship purposes, according to another Islamic Web site, Hidayatullah.com.

Protesting members of the Karasak Muslim Citizens Communication Forum, the Islamic Congregation Front and West Java Islamic Reformation Movement (GARIS) said the church did not have permission from area residents, although church leaders said an area official had given permission since 2005.

With 100 police officers on hand to maintain order, the poster-waving crowed chanted for an hour before slowly dispersing. During the protest, Muslim Citizens Communication Forum leader Fikri Saeful said, “The citizens reject church activities in this area because there is no permission from local citizens,” according Hidayatullah.com.

Fikri added that the church had reached out to area residents with free medical clinics and distribution of basic food items.

Agus Nugroho, a leader of the JKI church and an administrator of the Graha Mulia building, told Compass that the church had permission from the local area official known as a ward captain. The church submitted an application for a permit at a higher governmental level in 2005, he said. Church permit applications are often stalled in Indonesian government offices, opening the way for Muslim groups to accuse them of worshipping without official permission.

“We have been worshipping here since 2005 because we had trouble finding a place to worship,” Agus said. “We do have permission from the local government for worship.”

According to Agus, that permission did not have an expiration date. Moreover, he said, neither the building managers nor the church leaders have ever received a written complaint about the worship services.

“There have never been any problems between the citizens and the building managers or with the church,” Agus said.

He said that there was no regulation against using a multi-purpose building for worship services.

“We managers have no objections,” he added.

Anyone with objections to the use of a multi-purpose building by a church should pursue legal remedies, he said. The Graha Mulia building is also the location for the JKI Raja Kemuliaan Church.

GARIS leader Surayana Nurfatwa, however, told Compass the church his organization had received complaints from area residents, and that the church had no official permission for worship from them.

“We have received many reports from citizens who objected to these worship services,” Nurfatwa said, adding that the church’s continued worship would disrupt “religious harmony” and could result in conflict with the Muslim majority.


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