Third West Java Church Closed on Doubtful Grounds
Yet another church in Bogor has been sealed off by the authorities on the grounds of local opposition — a charge that parishioners dismiss as false.
Hendrik Massan Nena, a spokesman for the St. Johannes Baptista Catholic Church in Bogor’s Parung subdistrict, said on Tuesday that authorities had blocked the congregation from holding services in a tent in its 8,000-square-meter lot because the tent was not recognized as part of a house of worship.
“We’re still in talks with the district administration to see if they’ll allow us to keep using the tent for our weekly services,” Hendrik said.
He added that the reason the congregation worshiped in the tent was that it had still not received a permit to build a church, despite applying for it in 2000.
Father Gatot Wotoseputro, the head of the church, said the congregation set up the tent on their land in 2006 as a temporary place of worship while awaiting approval for the permit.
“Before that, we had to move around and hold our services in different places,” he said.
He added that he was perplexed at to why the authorities would now decide to seal off their tent, but said he suspected it was linked to the fact that the congregation had steadily increased and now numbered around 500 worshipers.
“I don’t know where these people are that they say oppose our presence here, but the residents in the neighborhood have never had any objections to our being here,” Gatot said.
Dace Supriadi, the head of the Bogor Public Order Agency (Satpol PP), said the congregation had been given seven days to find a new place of worship.
“If they continue to use this tent, we will tear it down,” he said.
Daswara Sulanjana, the Parung subdistrict head, denied that the authorities had come under pressure from Islamic hard-liners to crack down on the church.
“It’s not true at all that some parties don’t want any churches in Parung,” he said, “All religions and places of worship are welcome here, but they have to have the proper permits.”
He also claimed that his office had tried to speed up the issuance of a building permit for the church, but blamed “technical reasons that I don’t understand” for the holdup.
St. Johannes Baptista is just the latest church in West Java to be sealed off after being denied a permit.
In Bogor municipality, the GKI Yasmin congregation has for years been forced to hold its services on the sidewalk outside its church after the authorities sealed it off.
The continued closure is in direct violation of a Supreme Court order siding with the church, but no efforts have been made to enforce the ruling.
In Bekasi district, members of the HKBP Filadelfia church have also had to worship on the streets after the authorities denied them a building permit.