After failed dialog between Indonesian officials and representatives of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) Podok Timur Indah Church in Bekasi City, West Java, government officials sealed the house where the church was meeting.
The church pastor, the Rev. Luspida Simanjuntak, said the church that was meeting in Mustika Jaya district had attempted talks with the government, but pressure from Islamic organizations, including the Islamic Defenders’ Front, was so strong that the government could not stand up to it.
On June 20, Bekasi City officials sealed the building. Bekasi City Area Deputy Zaki Hoetomo admitted that the action was taken because of pressure from Islamic organizations upset by expanding Christian influence. Officials sealed it by placing a sign in front of the structure stating that it violated zoning, permit and construction regulations.
The church has been meeting in the house as the local government has delayed the processing of its application for a building permit.
Hoetomo said officials had contacted church leaders three times about the use of the house, but that there had been no response.
Members of the congregation wept as the building was sealed. Representatives of Islamic organizations, including the Anti-apostasy Forum of Bekasi, also witnessed the sealing.
Simanjuntak said the closure was unjust.
“How is it possible to forbid people to worship?” Simanjuntak told Compass, adding that the government was favoring the majority and neglecting others.
The pastor said the congregation will be firm and continue its regular worship at the place.
“We are going to stay at this house and worship according to our faith, even if we have to do it in the street,” Simanjuntak said.
The church of 1,500 members has thrived in the Mustika Jaya district for four years, its building permit application bogged down in bureaucracy.
Samuel Rionaldo, Compass Direct News