Indonesia Muslim Groups Oppose Church Construction

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

By Worthy News Staff

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (Worthy News) -- Muslims have protested the construction of a Protestant church in the capital of Indonesia's South Sumatra Province, the latest in a series of obstacles against church projects in the mainly Muslim nation, news reports said Wednesday July 15.

Christian news agency Compass Direct News said members of several Muslim organizations joined a demonstration on June 27 to protest construction of a Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP) church building in Plaju near the provincial capital Palembang.

In published remarks the South Sumatra Muslim Forum said the church had not secured permission from local authorities including what is known as the local Interfaith Harmony Forum nor a building permit, key requirements for the establishment of places of worship.

Earlier the deputy mayor of Palembang, Haji Rom Herton, reportedly issued  a halt to construction citing incomplete documentation. Church members had originally planned to hold a worship service and lay the cornerstone of their new building on June 7.


HKBP Plaju, which first met in 1961, currently worships with two other congregations in a building owned by the government oil company Pertamina. Several years ago HKBP purchased a 1,370-square meter plot in Palembang, but due to local opposition they were unable to obtain a building permit, Christians said.

In January, a church member reportedly donated another 1,500-square meter plot of land to the church, and the congregation drew up plans for a building there and held talks with local officials.

Reverend Japati Napitupulu admitted to reporters his church pressed ahead with building plans before the application process was complete, but he felt the governor had granted permission in principle.

Christian observers say As HKBP Plaju and other congregations have learned through bitter experience that applications for church permits are often fraught with difficulty in Indonesia, leaving many congregations no choice but to worship in private homes, hotels or rented conference facilities.

Such gatherings leave churches open to threats and intimidation from activist groups such as the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front), in recent years responsible for the closure of many unregistered churches, Compass Direct News and other sources said.