West Java’s Tolerance Problem

Aug 13th, 2006, in News, by

Stories of mob action against churches in Indonesia tend to very often emanate from West Java, as another church, near Bandung, was closed on July 16th.

The last remaining church in the district of Ciparay was surrounded by a crowd of local officials and fundamentalist Muslims on July 16th and forced to close. Pastor Mathias of the Batu Zaman Baptist church says:

When I was at the pulpit, I noticed that a large crowd, around 30 people, was gathering in front of the church building.

The crowd, comprised of local officials, people from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), youth activists from a local mosque, and other Muslim leaders, insisted that no church should be allowed in the predominantly Muslim area. Protestors demanded to see the church’s building permit for worship services.

The church does not have a permit. Pastor Mathias says:

We have been trying to get a permit since the church was established in 1998.

Mathias claims that local government officials “were afraid to trigger social unrest within the community” by granting a permit. Officials, however, did give the church verbal approval to operate.

The church is said to be involved in various community development programs, and Pastor Mathias believes that the church has been on good terms with local people. Since 2002, the church has given 50 scholarships to needy students from different faiths, and additionally free sewing and electronics training courses have been offered.

Despite objections from some Muslim groups, much of the community has supported the church, or at least bore it no ill will.

But lately, it seems like the locals were provoked against us.

Pressure mounted in May 2006 when a local official sent an appeal petition to the village head raising objections to services being held in the church. It was signed by local residents. Intense negotiations and correspondence between authorities and church members took place in June 2006. The church requested a temporary place of worship while processing the permit. It was refused.

The recently revised law on houses of worship makes provision for local governments to provide a temporary place should a worship house fail to gain approval from the surrounding community.

That is why we want to give the best shot for this case. It is the last church standing.

said Simon Timorason, the head of the West Java branch of the Indonesian Christian Communication Forum, (FKKI Jabar). Timorason is assisting the church in securing the permit.

Three other prominent churches in the same sub-district have been closed (see also Bigotry in Bandung). So far, the revised law has been ineffective in lessening inter-faith disharmony. Since its enactment on March 21, FKKI Jabar has recorded at least 12 cases of church closures in West Java alone.

Many, many churches, as well as mosques frankly, in Java do not have formal permission to operate. Generally local people, and Muslim leaders, turn a blind eye to the matter of permit-less churches, but it seems that the folk of West Java, in general, are less inclined to such good natured tolerance.

6 Comments on “West Java’s Tolerance Problem”

  1. Mohammed Khafi says:

    These people obviously never read Al Quran:

    “Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” 2:62

    A quote from Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall from a lecture series given in India in 1927!

    “The two verses (2:255-256) of the Qur’an are supeopleementary. Where there is that realization of the majesty and dominion of Allah (SWT), there is no compulsion in religion. Men choose their path – allegiance or opposition – and it is sufficient punishment for those who oppose that they draw further and further away from the light of truth.

    What Muslims do not generally consider is that this law applies to our own community just as much as to the folk outside, the laws of Allah being universal; and that intolerance of Muslims for other men’s opinions and beliefs is evidence that they themselves have, at the moment, forgotten the vision of the majesty and mercy of Allah (SWT) which the Qur’an presents to them.”

    Where is the provocation coming from to incite such acts? Where is the famed tolerance of the Indonesian people?

    Are we slowly turning ourselves into a neo-colonian outpost of Saudi Arabian Wahhabiism, where even Injeel, is taken away by customs officers and burned before it enters the country. Is that what we have to look forward to?

    Even the Americans and the Israelis allow religious freedom!


  2. Andrew says:

    They should have taken action thru proper legal channel. If the church is there without permit, obviously that is illegal and must be shut down, but not by the mob.

    Indonesia is not going anywhere if we allow everyone to take matters into their own hands. Unfortunately this seems to be the trend lately.

  3. Miss Indo 07 says:

    Well,hopefully the right people will win,
    Obviously as long as their head n heart are still dominated by evil,this kind of things will still exist,
    I hope there are more Moslems who can think like Mohammed Khafi..

  4. Ronald says:

    Well, i hope my fear will not happen. I’m not Nostradamus or Mama Laurent but i can see that my granchildren may will be the citizen of the Republic of North Sulawesi. hope it won’t happen. God Bless Indonesia.

  5. O. Bule says:

    If anyone had told me in 1990 that this kind of thing would happen in Bandung in only 16 years I would have told them they were nuts. Oh, please, God help Indonesia.

    O. Bule

  6. Bradlymail says:

    I TOTALLY AGREE WITH MOHAMMED KHAFI COMMENTS…as a Muslim,we must have a good tolerrance with others.

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