More than 200 Protestant Christians, belonging to two different communities for a long time victims of persecution, gathered yesterday in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta – the seat of the Head of State Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – to demonstrate “peacefully” against the expropriation of places of worship and seek the application of laws on “religious freedom”. In particular, the faithful denounce the abuses and violations of dozens of Islamist groups, the manipulation of the law to their liking and the inertia of the state and institutions, including the same Yudhoyono, who have not taken steps or concrete measures to restore legality. A battle supported by many human rights activists and local NGOs, concerned by the continuing deterioration of the situation.
The protest march held yesterday (pictured) was attended by the faithful of the Gki Yasmin Church (YC), from the Bogor regency in West Java, and Christians fromHkbp Filadelfia, also in Bekasi regency in West Java. For three years the faithful of YC can not access the place of worship, sealed at the behest of local authorities and the Mayor Diani Budiarto, who has denounced alleged irregularities in the release of IBM, the necessary building permit to build in Indonesia. A similar situation to that of the faithful of Hkbp Filadelfia, who for years fought in vain against the officials of Bekasi.
The Christians who gathered in front of Merdeka Palace – the Presidential Palace, – were given the full support of the President of the World Council of Churches, Reverend SAE Nabadan, solidarity was also expressed by Eva Sundari, the Indonesian parliamentarian, who attended the event and Sites Musdah Mulia, prominent figures in the struggle to defend human rights.
However no significant official position was taken by President Yudhoyono, who months ago had stated that he could not “interfere” in the “internal affairs” of Bogor. A position criticized by activists, who claim the head of state does is afraid of “alienating” the Islamic fringe in the fear of losing votes and support.
The Yasmin Church, a Protestant church, is the victim of an apparent violation of the law and religious freedom perpetrated by the local mayor Diani Budiarto that, contravening the dictates of a constitutional court ruling in favor of Christians, has banned all religious celebrations on the site. The building was designed according to the criteria established by law and has the building permit (IMB) required for the construction of places of worship. Last October, the mayor deployed security forces against the faithful, who can no longer use the place of worship and can not even pray in public.