Five Jakarta Governor Candidates Guarantee Religious Freedom
Lenny Tristia Tambun
Five pairs of gubernatorial and vice-gubernatorial candidates promised on Saturday that if elected, they would not ban the construction of houses of worship, so long as all legal requirements were met.
The promise came on the same day that the Filadelfia congregation of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Bekasi reported an incident of violence at their place of worship to the National Police. The congregation was attacked on Thursday during an Ascension Day service at their church in Bekasi.
At an event hosted by the Indonesian Catholic Society (FMKI), vice-gubernational candidate Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, backed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) blamed out-of-touch political elites for the problems faced by the Bekasi church, and the beleaguered GKI Yasmin in Bogor.
“Just imagine, many political elites say that this is not a religious issue. It clearly is. I resent the hypocritical and backward political elites who have mishandled this religious problem,” Ahok said.
Ahok is paired with gubernatorial candidate Joko Widodo, or Jokowi. Together, they promised to protect the freedom to establish a house of worship in the capital, so long as it meets legal requirements.
“The point is, we adhere to the Constitution. If everything is in order, then go ahead and build,” Ahok said. “ If there is something that disturbs the interests of any religious community, we will weed it out.”
Golkar vice-gubernatorial candidate Nono Sampono said that there were still a number of other houses of worship that had problems with their permits. Because of that, he would establish a regulation for houses of worship in Jakarta.
“If a church has all the permits, such as the building permit [IMB], and has the support of the surrounding community, then it must be built right away. It mustn’t get to the point that the local government starts to dispute the permits,” he said.
Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) gubernatorial candidate Hidayat Nur Wahid said that no Christian community had been banned from building a church or worshipping in the capital, and that the problem lay outside Jakarta.