ASIA/INDONESIA - The Catholic church of Santa Chiara under construction: threats by Islamic radicals

Tuesday, 29 November 2016 islam   political islam   religious minorities   religious freedom   local churches   justice  

Jakarta (Agenzia Fides) - "We will burn the church if the shipyard continues the work": with this threat more than 500 Muslims protested in Bekasi, a vast suburb of the metrolpolis Jakarta, to prevent the construction of the Catholic church of Santa Chiara. Protesters gathered in recent days with slogans and protests claiming that the church violated the law, manipulating and falsifying the signatures of citizens who support the construction of the building of worship. According to legal provisions which vary from province to province, in Indonesia the permit for the construction of a temple, for any religious community, requires a public request signed by an established number of believers, residents in the affected province.
As highlighted in a note of the parish of Santa Chiara, sent to Fides, the protestors declared their firm opposition to the construction of the church, and threatened to march and burn it if their petition is ignored.
In response to the demands of the protesters, Capuchin friar Raymundus Sianipar, parish priest of Santa Clara, told Fides that the parish regularly requested and obtained the building permit, following strictly administrative terms: "The request was presented 17 years ago. In these years we complied with all requirements and regulations. We waited patiently respecting the law and addressing the necessary challenges".
The number of parishioners, don Rasnius Pasaribu, secretary of the parish pastoral council, explained that the church has four priests who take care of 9,422 faithful scattered in the vast North Bekasi area that encompasses 58 neighborhoods. It is a high number of faithful who live at a considerable distance from the church, and it is therefore difficult to ensure adequate pastoral care. "Today – says don Rasnius - Sunday Mass is celebrated in a makeshift room that houses 300 people. And many others follow the Mass in the street. When it rains people are crowded into the room and on the terraces of the neighboring houses".
After a period of verification which lasted 17 years, on July 28, 2015 the mayor of Bekasi, the Muslim Rahmat Effendi issued the building permit to build the Catholic church of Santa Chiara. "We have successfully met all the requirements. Everything is documented", said Rasnius to Fides, rejecting the allegations that the church building is the largest in Asia. "The land we have is only 6,500 square meters, and we are building a 1,500 square meter building, enriched by external green spaces", explains the priest.
The Catholic community has no hostility towards the residents of Bekasi and "the church is a place that always welcomes everyone with open arms": "We are brothers, fellow citizens and compatriots", says Don Rasnius, asking residents to show the same spirit of acceptance and mutual tolerance.
The government of the present Indonesian President Joko Widodo had announced plans to address the issue of permits to build places of worship, eliminating some constraints established by the notorious "Izin mendirikan bangunan", the building permit which since 2006 regulates the creation or renovation of religious buildings. According to the decree now in force, each project must be signed by at least 99 worshipers and must be supported by at least 60 residents in the area, approved by the village chief in order for it to be approved. Over the years, the permit to build or renovate a chapel or prayer room has become a crucial issue, drawing protests from radical Islamic groups, who have arbitrarily blocked projects already underway or under study. (PA-PP) (Agenzia Fides 29/11/2016)