Law on Houses of Worship

Mar 24th, 2006, in IM Posts, by

The law on building houses of worship.

Since 1969 it is estimated that over 1000 churches have been burned down or forced to close due partly to the existence of a special ministerial decree that made it difficult for churches, and sometimes other religious groups' houses of worship, to gain formal approval and registration for their existence. Without having their paperwork in order they stood as easy targets for militant groups or bigoted local residents of other faiths, with the police often being stuck in the middle and having to side with the protesters and require congregations to move elsewhere or make do with holding services in homes.

The attacks on churches have intensified in the last few years and this caused the government in Jakarta to revise the law in question (SKB (Surat Keputusan Bersama) Menag dan Mendagri Nomor 1/1969.), with the process of revision now having been completed and the Religious Affairs department about to begin an education program on the new rules.

The most important aspects of the new rules for gaining permission to establish a house of worship are:

  1. Prospective houses of worship must gather together the names and identity cards of at least 90 people who belong to the proto-congregation.
  2. Prospective houses of worship must gather together the names and identity cards of at least 60 people who belong to other faiths, live in the area, and have no objection to the proposed building.
  3. Formal approval must be gained from local head of the Religious Affairs Department.
  4. Formal approval must be gained from the local inter-faith communication forum (Communication Forum for Religious Harmony (FKUB)).

If the above requirements are met but the proposed building meets with resistance from some local residents the local government is required to find an alternative venue for services. This is a new addition to the original 1969 law.

The decree also says that congregations numbering less than 90 people can obtain two-year temporary permits. Administrations are also required to protect and assist existing houses of worship which have yet to obtain permits.

The formulation of these new rules has been a subject of fierce debate and the decree has undergone no less than eleven revisions. Many are still unhappy, mostly from the Christian side.

Weinata Sairin of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), the main Protestant body in Indonesia, said that his organisation had wanted the minimum number of worshippers reduced to 60 and the approval of only 40 others for permission, and added:

It's not simply a matter of numbers. The freedom to worship is clearly stated in the Constitution so this decree is not actually needed. But now the most important thing is the implementation (of the decree) in the field, because people's levels of freedom, education and the quality of religious harmony varies in the regions.

Additionally, 42 mainly Christian parliamentarians, filed a formal complaint [1] at the House of Representatives today rejecting the decree. On procedural grounds the complaint will be forwarded to the president and attorney general.

Constant Ponggawa, the leader of the parliamentary Prosperous Peace Party (PDS), a Christian party, submitted the complaint and said later that the decree had caused tension between followers of all religions in the country, and:

We are very concerned that this decree will give rise to violations of the constitution.
(Kami sangat prihatin apabila SKB dua menteri dan revisi SKB tersebut diberlakukan akan menimbulkan pelanggaran yang mendasar atas konstitusi)

On the other side of the fence some Muslim leaders have said that in some parts of the country, such as north Sulawesi, the building of mosques meets with much resistance. They also say that in spite of the rules the rate of increase in the number of churches exceeds that of mosques.

According to official figures, from 1977 to 2004, the number of Muslim houses of worship grew by 64% from 392,044 to 643,834, while the number of Protestant churches saw growth of 131% from 18,977 to 43,909, and Catholic churches grew by 152% from 4,934 to 12,473.


3 Comments on “Law on Houses of Worship”

  1. avatar R. Patterson says:
    March 24th, 2006 at 11:16 pm

    The forced closure of Houses of Worship is totally shameful and absolutely un-Islamic. Why do Western nations allow mosques, Hindu temples etc and the so-called faith of peace and freedom does not? Why are western nations so far ahead of those who persecute their minorities? Indonesia is once again demeaning their country, religion, way of life and people by this act which is against the UN charter of human rights. SHAME! on you Indonesia, please join the more civilised nations we need you!. R. Patterson

  2. avatar Laura says:
    March 26th, 2006 at 2:31 am

    Government regulation of buildings … even houses of worship …. is part of the job of government. Here in America, permits for churches are often subject to a horrible number of red-tape regulations. Some cities don’t like churches in downtown areas, because churches here don’t pay property taxes. This is very different than criminal actions of burning down existing churches and murdering converts.
    Also, the size of a Christian church … shouldn’t that be regulated by the Bible ? If that were so, Jesus said ” Where ever two or three of you are in agreement, there am I in the midst of you.” Two Christians is a Church… building or no.

  3. avatar Nathan says:
    March 8th, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Maybe It’s Come from Radical Muslim, I’m Sorry About This, Our Goverment is Too Late for Taken this Problem



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