Sunday, March 14, 2010

Christians Refuse to Allow Officials to Close Church in Indonesia

Authorities in Bekasi, West Java run into determined lawyer, congregation.

Efforts by local officials in this city in West Java to close a church met with stiff resistance this month, as a defiant lawyer and weeping women refused to allow it.

Women of the Huria Christian Protestant Batak Church (HKBP) cried in protest as officials from the Bekasi Building Department on March 1 placed a brown signboard of closure on the church building in Pondok Timur, Bekasi, 12 miles (19 kilometers) from Jakarta.

The seal stayed in place for about two minutes before some of the shrieking women tore it down. The sign was trampled as furious church members stampeded over it, shouting and screaming. Bekasi city officials turned and ran as the congregation fanned out.

The defiance followed a heated debate within the same church building minutes before, as the Christians had invited the Bekasi officials inside to discuss the matter when they arrived to seal the building. The discussion soon became heated as a city official asserted that the church did not have a building permit.

The church had applied for a worship building permit in 2006, but local officials had yet to act on it, according to the church’s pastor, the Rev. Luspida Simanjuntak.

At the meeting inside the church building, attorney Refer Harianya said that the sealing process was illegal, as it requires that public notice be given.

“HKBP has never seen nor received the formal order and has not acknowledged such an order by signing a receipt,” Harianya said. “In addition, public notice must be given in the form of formal reading of the order.”

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