A radical group in Bandung, West Java, in Indonesia, reportedly refused to allow the Huria Kristen Batak Protestant Betania Rancaekek (HKBP Church) to worship on March 23, said a report.
A report from rights group International Christian Concern’s (ICC) said a group of radical Muslims surrounded the church.
The Muslims reportedly put up a banner that read: “Stop the illegal HKBP worship plan at the Maris Square shophouse!!! Or we will act.”
HKBP Betania Rancaekek was established in April 1999 and has tried to obtain a building permit (IMB) from the government to build a church.
Without proper permits, churches cannot gather legally. Often, IMBs are denied without solid reasoning to prevent Christians from worshipping, said the ICC report.
“Too often, churches in Muslim-majority Indonesia are unfairly subjected to Indonesia’s religious harmony laws, which require several conditions be met to worship legally,” said Gina Goh, ICC regional manager for Southeast Asia.
She said these conditions “are often subject to the consent of reluctant Muslim majorities.”
Goh said that even if religious groups manage to obtain the necessary IMB permit, “the existence of such religious harmony laws empowers activists and extremists with legal tools to disrupt the social order and create a new challenge to one’s right to worship.”
She said local governments are “unwilling to risk public unrest.”
“If Indonesia truly honors Pancasila, the nation’s core ideology to promote pluralism, Jakarta needs to ensure that one religion cannot strip the rights of another,” she said in a statement.
In 2015, the HKBP Church began working on the IMB of the shophouse building in Maris Square as a place of worship. In the following years, the assembly approached residents and local authorities to receive their consent.
Their efforts yielded positive results, as 85 residents signed a letter stating they did not object and supported the conversion of shophouses into HKBP worship buildings in late 2019. The local village chief also approved the plan.
But the building of the church faced resistance from the Camat (district leader) and the local military district command.
A hardline Islamic organization, Forkomi (previously called Islamic Defenders Front), later forcibly shut down the building so it could no longer be used for worship, said the ICC report.