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Hardliners threaten Christians in Indonesia

The congregation of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Indonesia again faces the threat of eviction from local hardliners who are now targeting the makeshift location where the church conducts its weekly service.

A group of residents who live along Jl. K.H. Abdullah bin Nuh in Bogor, West Java, attempted to evict the GKI Yasmin congregation from the area on Sunday morning, but were repelled by police and public order officers deployed at the location.

The group, claiming to represent residents of Curug Mekar in West Bogor subdistrict, demanded the church stop conducting Sunday services, calling the activity a public disturbance.

One of leaders of the group, Azman, said church members could hold services elsewhere, but were not welcome in the neighbourhood.

“We are here today because we have been much troubled by the Sunday services held on the street. It disrupts traffic and blocks sidewalks,” he said.

Neighbourhood leader Hambali said locals were not aware of a Supreme Court ruling allowing the church to continue conducting services.

“We know nothing of the legal matters. We just want them to carry out their services elsewhere because we want the neighbourhood to be safe and peaceful,” he said.

A recent Supreme Court verdict overturned the Bogor administration’s request to uphold a lower court decision to shut down the church.

The administration, however, continues to work to shut down the church, claiming the signatures of area residents collected by the church to support the church construction were fraudulent.

A meeting held between area residents and Bogor administration secretary Bambang Gunawan on Sunday without representatives from the church concluded with the administration offering the church the use of a former local election commission office or the Harmoni hall as a substitute venue.

Reiterating the Bogor administration’s stance, Bambang told The Jakarta Post that the church construction was illegal, despite the Supreme Court ruling.

“We will treat the church building permit as illegal because the signatures [of area residents] required for the permit were forged,” he said.

Bambang issued the church a July 10 deadline to leave the area.

Church spokesman Bona Sigalingging said the congregation received threats on Saturday (July 2) demanding the church cancel Sunday services.

“The letter, written ostensibly on behalf of the people of Curug Mekar, was addressed to the Bogor mayor, military district chief, district police chief and head of the local legislature” he said.

Bona said church members were forced to hold services on the street because Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto refused to acknowledge the Supreme Court ruling.

“The mayor is the one responsible for the all of the problems. We will stop conducting services on the side of the road when he starts to respect the verdict and allows us to set up our church,” he said.

By News Desk

(The Jakarta Post)