Indonesia, September 13, 2012: The ongoing campaign against GKI Yasmin Church in Indonesia has taken yet another twist as the authorities have ordered the congregation to relocate, reneging on a previous agreement.
Following a meeting at the weekend involving the Minister for Home Affairs, the Mayor of Bogor, theIndonesia Ulema Council and the leader of Forkami, a radical Islamic group, the Home Affairs Ministry told the church to move from its site in Bogor, West Java.
After years of legal wrangling, an agreement had been reached in May that GKI Yasmin could reopen its sealed-off building provided a mosque was built next door. The church agreed to this, and it seemed that they would finally be allowed to worship in peace.
GKI Yasmin spokesman Bona Sigalingging said he did not understand where the sudden decision to relocate the church had come from and flatly rejected the order:
No matter where, no matter how expensive or beautiful the new location, we will not accept.
The government is preparing replacement land, and the Bogor authorities have allocated up to 10 billion Indonesian Rupiah (£650,000; US$1m) for the construction of a new building.
But that is not the point as far as the church is concerned. A Supreme Court ruling in 2010 ordered that GKI Yasmin’s building, which has been blocked off since 2008, be reopened. Mr Sigalingging said that if the church is relocated, then the rule of law in Indonesia has collapsed.
Home Ministry spokesman Reydonnyzar Moenek acknowledged that the decision did go against the Supreme Court ruling and tried to insist that it was not a violation of religious freedom, adding dismissively, “It’s just an ordinary matter between the mayor and its citizens.”
Mr Sigalingging slammed as “shameful” the decision to invite the leader of Forkami to the meeting that determined the church’s future. He said this radical Islamic group had “fuelled tension” and “succeeded in having us forcibly removed from our church”.
Bogor mayor Diani Budiarto is said to have a long history of appeasing Muslim hard-liners, who have been calling for the church’s closure since 2008.
GKI Yasmin has been holding services in the street in front of its half-constructed building or in private homes.
The church filed a formal complaint with the courts against the Bogor authorities following this latest move against them.
- barnabas team
Pak: Law sought to bar forced conversions *Indonesian Christians: Pentecost in front of the Presidential Palace, for religious freedom
Pakistan, May 30, 2012: Christian lawyers and activists have criticized the Supreme Court for its failure to protect religious minority women from forced conversion and urged the government to adopt specific legal protections.
Peter Jacob, executive director of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, said during a consultative meeting with Christian lawyers on Saturday that minority women live under constant threat of abduction and conversion.
“The religious minorities are under threat and hesitant to allow their women to join any profession due to fear of losing a family member,” he said.
He added that the Supreme Court had failed to protect minorities by refusing a petition by the Pakistan Hindu Council calling for a law against forced conversion of minority women.
The meeting in Lahore included Christian lawyers, members of the Salvation Army and human rights activists.
Jacob further noted the court’s failure to act on the abduction and conversion of three Hindu women, who subsequently decided not to return to their families.
The court ruled last month that the three women allegedly kidnapped and married to Muslim men were old enough to decide for themselves whether to stay with their husbands.
“We want to build a bridge between the Christian lawyers and the Church-based organizations to stand and struggle together for the rights and protection of the Christian community,” Jacob said.
According to data compiled by the Episcopal Commission, 1,415 people were forcibly converted to Islam since 2000, including 554 Christians, 220 Ahmadi Muslims, 622 Hindus and 4 Sikhs. An additional 15 people whose religious affiliation was not known were also forcibly converted.
Haroon Suleman Khokhar, a lawyer who attended the consultative meeting, said the country’s blasphemy law is a frequently used tool for forced conversion.
“There is a list of such cases where the victim was pressured to convert to Islam if he or she wants to be released from the allegation [of blasphemy],” he said.
Recommendations by the meeting included the establishment of a three-member committee comprising two Christians and one Muslim to evaluate each case of conversion to determine if it was voluntary.
Participants also supported the adoption of a three- to six-month waiting period for anyone who converts in order to be married.
Indonesian Christians: Pentecost in front of the Presidential Palace, for religious freedom
Indonesia, May 28, 2012: The faithful of the Yasmin Church (YC) and Hkbp Filadelfia celebrated the feast outside the offices of the Head of State. YC Spokesman to Yudhoyono: Open your eyes and take measures to ensure the practice of worship. Also critical to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who in Geneva depicts a country where harmony and tolerance reigns.
The faithful of the Yasmin Church (YC) in Bogor and members of the Hkbp Filadelfia Protestant community celebrated the feast of Pentecost, yesterday in Jakarta, in front of the Presidential Palace. The Christians gathered near the home of the head of state of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono because deprived of their places of worship: both churches, in fact, have been closed by local authorities and areas are the focus of a litigation in progress that has been ongoing for years. And to no avail, so far, the pronouncements of the Supreme Court which established the right of religious minority – Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world – to use the places of worship because they hold rightful ownership.
The Christian community celebrated the feast of Pentecost outdoors under a blazing sun, not far from the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta. For the second time in a few weeks, the faithful have chosen the home of Yudhoyono as a symbolic place of protest to ask for “justice” on places of worship (see AsiaNews 16/04/2012 Jakarta: Hundreds of Christians ask President for justice on places of worship). Last April’s event was attended by the faithful of the Gki Yasmin Church (YC), the Bogor regency in West Java, and Hkbp Filadelfia Christians, in the regency of Bekasi also in West Java. For three years the YC faithful can not access the place of worship, sealed at the behest of local authorities and the Mayor Diani Budiarto, who has denounced alleged irregularities in the release of the IBM, the permit to build places of worship in Indonesia. A similar situation to that of the Hkbp Filadelfia faithful, who have fought for years in vain against the officials of Bekasi.
The faithful have also condemned the intervention of Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa at the United Nations Council for Human Rights in Geneva (Switzerland). The Indonesian Government head of the diplomacy, according to the Protestant community, should tell the “real” situation in the country regarding religious freedom and practice of religion for minorities, including Christians. Conversely, instead he described a situation of harmony, tolerance and good relations between denominations.
The lack of a place of worship for the Yasmin Church and Hkbp Filadelfia shows that extremist groups are more powerful than the religious minorities, and that the radical movements have the support of local authorities, who do not apply the law, but follow the directives of Islamic fundamentalists. YC spokeswoman Bona Sigalingging spoke at the event strongly calling for “the President to open his eyes and take action.” Her appeal was raised by dozens of groups and human rights activists, including Bungaran Saragih former Minister of Agriculture during the years of President Megawati.
USA, May 21, 2012: Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on lawsuits filed today against the Obama administration. At issue is the constitutionality of the Health and Human Services edict seeking to force Catholic non-profits to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptive services and sterilization in their insurance plans:
This is a great day for those who believe in religious liberty. Suing the Obama administration for seeking to trash the First Amendment rights of Catholics are 43 Catholic dioceses and institutions from all over the nation.
Among those filing suit are: the Archdiocese of New York; the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.; the Archdiocese of St. Louis; the Diocese of Rockville Centre; the Diocese of Dallas; the Diocese of Fort Worth; the Diocese of Pittsburgh; the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend; the Michigan Catholic Conference (which represents all seven dioceses in the state); Catholic University of America; Franciscan University of Steubenville; and the University of Notre Dame. Entities ranging from retirement homes to publishing houses joined the lawsuits.
There will be more. And depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules next month on the constitutionality of ObamaCare, this may just be the beginning.
Catholics are sending an unmistakable sign to President Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, et al. that we will not be obedient. We will not do as we are told. Instead, we will do what is just. The Catholic rebellion has begun.
Indonesia: Historic Christian prayer gathering underway
It’s a historic prayer gathering in many ways, not the least of which is Indonesia’s decision to host the event. The huge Southeast Asian island nation is home to the world’s largest Muslim population.
“That’s what we are well-known for, but there’s something else taking place in our country,” one Indonesian woman said.
Her words echo a deep desire among Indonesia’s minority Christians to make the name of Jesus Christ famous.
“We are a small percentage of the population, but we are compelled to tell others about Christ,” the woman said.
Winds of Revival
A massive prayer movement is underway, connecting some 500 Indonesian cities with more than 5 million believers.
This week, an hour’s drive south of Jakarta, the capital city, Indonesian churches invited more than 9,000 Christians to take part in the World Prayer Assembly 2012.
“We feel that the epicenter of the world revival is going to be Asia and especially Indonesia,” World Prayer Assembly’s John Robb told CBN News.
Such a large Christian event has never been held in this majority Muslim country.
“We see the WPA as kind of a stepping stone toward the fulfillment of Habakkuk 2:14: ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,’” Robb said.
For five days, representatives of more than 60 countries will network and strategize on how to bring Christ’s salvation and healing to the nations.
“A new wave is coming so we wanted to catch it, the spirit of prayer, so that we can bring revival to our nation,” Pricilla Abbathurai of India said.
Christian couple acquitted in Lahore over false blasphemy charges *Indonesia: Church attacked with stones, urine
Pakistan, May 21, 2012: Charged in December 2008, they were initially given life in prison. After four years behind bars, they were acquitted. A Muslim man had accused them in a personal vendetta over a row among children. For the judges, the accusations were a frame-up over a personal dispute.
“The court took a brave decision by releasing the married couple. They were unfairly accused and jailed for a crime they never committed,” said Fr John Mall. The priest from the Diocese of Lahore welcomed the ruling by the High Court that acquitted Munir Masih and his wife Ruqayya for lack of evidence. The parents of six children had originally received a life sentence.
In the first trial held in Kasur in 2010, the court dropped the charge of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which carries the death penalty. It was clear even then, that the couple was not guilty of any crime. However, they had to wait four years before the second charge was also thrown out.
“No one testified against the couple on the matter of blasphemy,” the couple’s lawyer Chaudhry Naeem Shakir said. The contradictions in the complaint against 32-year-old Munir and his wife were apparent.
Their accuser, Muhammad Yousaf, had said that they had used the Qur’an for exorcism. The court found his story too inconsistent, ruling that it was made only in revenge in a “personal dispute”.
A quarrel between the Christian couple’s children and those of Muhammad Yousaf, from Kasur in Punjab, drove the latter to use the ‘black law’.
Muhammad Yousaf induced his driver, Muhammad Nawaz, to bear false witness and accuse the Masih of blasphemy on the basis of sections B and C of Article 295 of Pakistan’s penal code. Seven other people were also named as witnesses to the crime.
Following the Lahore High Court’s decision, Munir Masih was released on bail. The charges against him were deemed weak from the start. His wife’s release from the Sahiwal Women’s Prison is expected shortly. She should be then reunited with her husband and six children (two boys and four girls).
“The court took a brave decision,” Fr John Mall told AsiaNews. “The blasphemy law is used to settle personal scores, especially in Punjab,” he exaplined. “The Catholic Church has appealed several times to the government to act against its abuse.”
“Many cases of blasphemy have occurred and many acts of violence have been perpetrated against minorities in the area,” said Fr Amir Romail, a priest in Kasur.
In view of this outcome, he said that he hopes to see judges making similar decisions “in other cases where the accused languishes in prison for years waiting for a judgement.”
Indonesia: Church attacked with stones, urine
A leader of the Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) of Philadelphia in West Java has urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take action against religious intolerance after radical Muslims were accused of throwing stones and urine at a church congregation.
Reverend Palti Panjaitan said almost 100 Protestants were subjected to hate speeches and murder threats on Thursday during a service to celebrate Ascension Day at a half-built church in Bekasi district.
More than 400 police and military personnel deployed to secure the service had asked church-goers to worship at a government-designated building 10 kilometers from the site to avoid a standoff with a crowd of 300 Muslim protestors.
“That was the time when the group threw stones, bags of urine and ditchwater at us,” said Rev Panjaitan, adding that the congregation had to halt the service because of the incident.
He warned the authorities that hatred between religious communities would escalate “if such religious intolerance is not resolved immediately.”
Rev Andreas Anangguru Yewangoe, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, accused President Yudhoyono of failing to address the problem.
“It is inhumane. We are tired of facing such incidents,” he said. “If we want this state to be united, the only way is to maintain religious freedom.”
HKBP Philadelphia has been waiting for five years to gain permission to build a church in Bekasi district after submitting an application in 2007.
In December 2009, the district administration issued a letter banning congregations from worshiping on the site but in July last year the Supreme Court overruled the decision, saying the church was eligible for a permit.
HKBP Philadelphia says this has still not been issued, however.
Iran: Monuments destroyed in bid to wipe out Christian heritage *Indonesia: Islamists block persecuted church from holding service
Iran, April 24, 2012: Historical Christian monuments in Iran are being destroyed or allowed to fall into a state of decay in what appears to be an attempt by the authorities to wipe out the country’s Christian heritage.
Churches and Christian cemeteries are particularly vulnerable, as experts warn that pre-Islamic historical monuments are at greater risk than ever before.
Earlier this month, Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News reported that a Christian cemetery, which was over 200 years old, in the Ghal’e Dokhtar area of Kerman province had been completely demolished without the permission of its owners.
Mohammad Mehdi Afzali of the Cultural Heritage organisation of Kerman was quoted as saying:
Destruction of this cemetery was conducted as part of a project by the municipality and Cultural Heritage organisation to release lands around Ghal’e Dokhtar and Ghal’e Ardeshir.
This followed the flattening of the Church of St Andrew, also in Kerman, last year. It was pulled down by bulldozers overnight despite having been registered as a national monument in March 2009, a status that required the 60-year-old building to be protected and restored. The church had previously been converted into an office for a taxi service.
The Church of Haftvan, in Salmas county, has been repeatedly attacked and is in danger of collapse. It was registered as a national monument in 2002 but has been left to decay; plants have grown into the building, causing the walls to crack. Trespassers have vandalised the building, and the yard in front of it has been dug up in search of jewels and antiques; this has caused soil erosion, weakening the walls of the church.
A Christian from Salmas said:
The Islamic Republic is practically destroying monuments of Christians. It is not Haftvan alone; the church of Ashnak village has become the same or even worse because of some trespassers who are actually officials of the regime… The laws of the Islamic country do nothing to prevent the destruction of these monuments.
Large crosses on gravestones at a Christian cemetery in Bushehr that dates back to the mid-nineteenth century have been removed, and what remains of the site is overgrown and neglected.
Mohabat News said:
It seems that Islamic Republic officials, unsuccessful in stopping the growth of Christianity among the people by pressuring them, arresting them and banning Christian converts from attending church services, want to destroy historical Christian monuments to totally wipe the Christian heritage from the face of Iran.
- barnabas team
Indonesia: Islamists block persecuted church from holding service
Indonesia, April 24, 2012: Another Indonesian church whose building has been unlawfully sealed off by the authorities was met with violent opposition from Islamists as it attempted to stage an outdoor service.
The Filadelfia congregation of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Bekasi has been unable to use the building on the land it bought in 2007. The Christians worshipped in a semi-permanent building while waiting for a permit from the Bekasi government. Despite their meeting all the requirements for one, a permit was not issued, and on 31 December 2009, the church was banned from using the site; the building was sealed off the following month.
HKBP took the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favour. Its decision is however, yet to be implemented.
Last Sunday (15 April), the congregation was met with violent opposition as they tried to hold a service on the street in front of their sealed-off church building. Muslim residents blocked them from the site, and the local authorities had to intervene.
Overwhelmed by the mob, officials told the Christians to hold their service at the local sub-district office – around five kilometres away – but they refused. As they persisted with the service, it was disrupted by the Muslim opponents, who played loud music and rode a motorcycle through the congregation.
Church leader, the Rev. Palti Panjaitan, insisted it was the church’s right to use the building. He was threatened by one of the mob, who shouted, “Palti Panjaitan, you’re dead if you try coming back!”
HKBP’s battle with the authorities and local Muslims has many parallels with the plight of GKI Yasmin Church, whose building in Bogor, West Java, has been illegally sealed off by the authorities, in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling that it should re-open.
More than 200 Christians from the two churches, along with human rights activists and political representatives, staged a peaceful demonstration in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on 15 April. They decried the expropriation of places of worship and called for religious freedom to be upheld, denouncing violations by Islamist groups and the failure of the authorities, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to implement the law.
Activists said that the president was afraid of “alienating” the Islamic fringe in case he lost support and votes.
GKI, which has been holding services on the street in front of its church building since 2008, has now been forced to meet in secret for the safety of the congregation.
Church spokesman Bona Sigalingging said:
We are constantly having to change our location because our existence appears to be unwanted, and we have to hide so that we are not intimidated by intolerant groups… We had hoped for help from the police, but after many attacks on members of the congregation, we see that the police are also involved in this.
In a visit to Indonesia earlier this month, British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the country as an example of religious tolerance. He said:
What Indonesia shows is that in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, it is possible to reject this extremist threat and prove that democracy and Islam can flourish alongside each other.
While it is true that there is greater religious freedom in Indonesia than some Muslim-majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan, the ongoing persecution of HKBP and GKI demonstrate that Indonesia still has a long way to go in the treatment of its Christian minorities.
- barnabas team
Dildar Masih (29), a father of two, was falsely accused in June 2011 after an incident involving his nephew, aged around eight, who was set upon by Muslim boys.
The youngster, Sunny Masih, had been pressured by madrasa students from the local mosque to recite theshahada, the Muslim confession of faith. When Sunny refused, the Muslim boys started to beat him severely.
Dildar, who saw this from some distance, shouted and rushed to the scene to rescue his nephew, and then went to work. A few days later, a blasphemy case was registered with the police against Dildar by a Muslim prayer leader. He accused the Christian man of insulting the shahada and offending the passions of Muslims.
Dildar, who lives in Mian Channu, Khanewal district, in Punjab province, was arrested and held in custody.
In November 2011, his father Yousaf Masih contacted CLAAS, a Pakistani Christian legal organisation supported by Barnabas Fund, to request legal help and financial assistance for Dildar’s wife and two children.
CLAAS informed Barnabas Fund on 26 March that it has now succeeded in securing Dildar’s acquittal from the court. It is also providing safe accommodation for Dildar and his family; those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are very vulnerable to reprisal attacks by Muslims, even after they have been cleared of all charges.
Sadly, the outcome for many people charged with blasphemy in Pakistan is dire. They are often left languishing in prison for months or even years while their case is considered, and if they are eventually released, it is almost impossible for them to return to their former lives because of the threat from hostile Muslims.
Christians and other non-Muslims are particularly vulnerable to malicious, false accusation under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, as the judiciary in the lower courts tend to believe the word of a Muslim over the word of a non-Muslim, in line with the teachings of sharia. And because there is no penalty for false accusation, the law is often exploited to settle personal scores and grudges.
- barnabas team
Gunmen fire on Indonesian church building in latest attack
Two men in their 30s were seen wandering around the site of GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor, West Java, at around noon on 16 March. The pair opened fire using air guns loaded with lead bullets, causing damage to the church windows.
They were arrested, and police found in the offenders’ vehicle a map of the church building as well as information about other targets in different cities.
It is the latest in a long line of attacks on GKI, which has been under sustained pressure from the Bogor authorities and Islamist groups.
The church’s half-constructed building has been illegally sealed off by city chiefs since 2008, forcing the congregation to hold services on the street. Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto has refused to comply with an order by the Supreme Court in December 2010, and a subsequent ruling by the Ombudsman Commission, that the church be reopened. He has used various ploys to prevent the church from gathering publicly, an effort that has been backed by radical Islamists, who have staged repeated protests against the church.
Last month, Indonesia’s main Christian organisations took the matter to the Constitutional Court. Andreas Yewangoe, chairman of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), said that there was deep frustration within the Christian community over the state’s failure to make the Bogor authorities comply with the Supreme Court ruling. They are also disappointed that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has promised to “resolve” the matter but has not taken any action.
It seems, however, that there is little the Constitutional Court will be able to do. The chief justice, Mahfud M.D., said that he was similarly frustrated by the government’s inability to enforce the order, adding:
I’m hesitant to say anything new because everyone else – the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah (the country’s two biggest Islamic organisations) – have already pointed out that the ruling is final and should be obeyed.
Bogor’s obstructive mayor has offered a “relocation to a more representative location”, presumably referring to an area that does not have a Muslim majority, and also to buy GKI’s building and land. But the church has said that it will not accept any offer of alternative premises, insisting that the law be upheld.
- barnabas team
Indonesia, March 29, 2012: The ban would take effect from May and is part of the country’s morality campaign. It will not regard the tourist resorts of Bali and Papua, where tribal people live. Criticism from human rights activists. Former President Megawati speaks of a diversionary tactic to divert attention from real problems.
Indonesia is banning miniskirts. According to Suryadharma Ali, Minister for Religious Affairs, the government is determined to “fight with seriousness,” the tendency of women to wear sexy outfits, including the world famous “mini” because it is inconsistent with Islamic principles and morals. The decision has been met with praise from radical movements, including the approval of the Ulema Council (MUI) which invites the female world to wear “Muslim clothing”. Opposition and human rights activists call on the executive to deal with the economy and dismiss the proposal as a desperate attempt to divert attention from the more concrete problems, such as rising fuel prices (see AsiaNews 28/03/2012 Clashes break out across Indonesia over rising diesel and gasoline prices, many injured), while ingratiating himself with the local extremist fringe.
The intention to ban “sexy” clothing was made by Ali – current president of the pro-Islamic United Development Party (PPP) – During a parliamentary session in Senayan, Central Jakarta. He has also covered the subject as a “secretary general” of the newly-created Presidential Task Force, called to fight against pornography as requested by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in mid-March.
By Decree No 25/anno 2012, the Head of State marked the official birth of the Commission, under the direction of the minister for welfare Agung Laksono, it will monitor the customs, including clothing, and any performances of a sexual nature in public place. The “anti-miniskirt” law should come into force next May, tourist resort of Bali, where there are many foreigners, and the province of Papua, where tribal people native to the area continue to wear clothes traditional “mini” will be exempt.
Former President Megawati, leader of the nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party Struggle (PDIP) fiercely criticizes the government’s proposal, it only serves to distract the public from more concrete problems, such as rising fuel prices which has caused enormous social tensions. Criticism also from human rights movements: Andi Yentiani, the national commission for women’s rights, emphasizes that “there are more important issues that need to be addressed.”
Indonesia is famous for its campaigns of moralization, in the name of Shariah and Islamic custom: among them the recent proposal for cancellation of the Lady Gaga concert, the fight against the flag-raising “because Muhammad had never done it”; invectives against the popular social network Facebook because “amoral”, against yoga, smoking, jeans and the right to vote, especially for women.
Persecuted Indonesian church protests in front of presidential palace *Baghdad church siege convicts sentenced to death
Indonesia, February 08, 2012: Hundreds of members of a besieged Indonesian church staged a protest and held their Sunday service in front of the country’s presidential palace, calling on the president to uphold their rights.
GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor has been under intense persecution from the city mayor and militant Muslims, who have repeatedly blocked them from holding services at their site.
On 29 January, the congregation demonstrated in front of the presidential palace in the capital, Jakarta. They called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to stop the acts of discrimination and intimidation against them.
Church spokesman Bona Sigalingging said:
We came here so that the top leader of the country may help solve this problem, for love of the rule of law and the defence of diversity in Indonesia.
The church’s half-constructed building has been illegally sealed off by city chiefs since 2008, forcing the congregation to hold services on the street. Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto has refused to comply with an order by the Supreme Court in December 2010, and subsequent ruling by the Ombudsman Commission, that the church be reopened. He has used various ploys to prevent the church from gathering publicly, an effort that has been backed by radical Islamists, who have staged repeated protests against the church.
In January, Islamists and public officials tried twice to prevent the church’s Sunday service from taking place. Mr Sigalingging said:
The mayor of Bogor informed us that we could not conduct celebrations on our church’s land or near it. This is a form of intimidation.
In a separate development, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, has sent a letter to the Indonesian government raising concerns about its handling of cases of religious discrimination, including the GKI Yasmin church blockade. The letter calls on the government to take action immediately in accordance with international human rights standards.
But according to Indonesia’s Human Rights Working Group, there has been no response from Jakarta thus far.
- barnabas team
Baghdad church siege convicts sentenced to death
Iraq’s highest court ratified the penalty on Thursday 2 February. Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council, said:
There are three convicted criminals. All of them are Iraqis and they were convicted based on the terrorism law.
The sentence is final and it will be sent to the presidency to issue a decree to the Justice Ministry to execute it.
On 31 October 2010 armed militants took around 100 worshippers hostage during an evening service at the Baghdad church. Over 50 hostages and police were killed and more than 60 people injured in the attack, which ended when security forces stormed the building.
Twelve suspects were arrested at the end of November 2010 in connection with the incident. One of the alleged leaders, Huthaifa al-Batawi, known as al-Qaeda’s “Emir of Baghdad”, was killed in an attempted jailbreak last May.
The al-Qaeda affiliated group, Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the bloodiest recorded assault on Iraqi Christians since the 2003 US-led invasion.
The hostage siege and subsequent violence prompted another exodus of Iraqi Christians from the capital, with hundreds of families fleeing to the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Christians have been targeted with violence in Iraq since the Gulf War of 1990-91, when they became associated with the Western invaders because of their faith. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes; the number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from 1.5 million in 1990 to perhaps as low as 400,000 today.
- barnabas team
Indonesia, December 6, 2011: Hundreds of Islamists have rallied against a beleaguered Indonesian church, which has been blocked from its building by the city mayor in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling.
The first of two protests was staged outside the Bogor City Hall on Sunday 27 November. Members of hard-line groups, Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia and the Indonesian Muslim Communication Forum, decried the “arrogance” of GKI Yasmin Church and said they wanted to show that all Muslims were united in opposition to its presence in the city.
Muhyiddin Junaidi, local branch chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), said it would be “wise and sensible” for the church to yield to “the feelings of the local believers, specifically Muslims”.
Meanwhile, a video on Hizb ut-Tahrir’s website shows the group’s leaders telling the public that the church did not have a building permit, and that Christianisation would follow if they allowed the church to be built in the area.
GKI Yasmin was issued with a building permit in 2006, but this was revoked two years later. Since then, the congregation has been holding services on the street in front of its half-constructed building. In December 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the closure was unlawful and ordered the church to be reopened. But Bogor city chiefs, spearheaded by Mayor Diani Budiarto, have refused to comply with this and a subsequent ruling by the Ombudsman Commission.
Islamist protesters rallied again in Bogor on Wednesday 30 November in support of the mayor’s decision.
Muhammad Al Khaththath, secretary general of the Islamic People’s Forum, told the Jakarta Globe:
Members of the press, please cover the rally by Bogor Muslims in support of the Mayor’s decision to revoke GKI Yasmin’s permit and stop GKI’s arrogance.
The mayor has tried to justify his decision, which has been internationally condemned, with the spurious argument that a church should not be built on a street with an Islamic name.
Intensifying his campaign against the congregation, he has blocked all access roads to the site to prevent them from holding their regular outdoor service. This measure has been supported by Muslim extremists.
And last week, the congregation was prevented from gathering on the pavement in front of the sealed-off church by a group of motorcycle taxi drivers. They claimed that they were losing business because the Christians were praying on the pavement, leaving them with nowhere to park their vehicles.
- barnabas team
August 8, 2011: Archbishop Petrus Turang of Kupang has appealed to Catholic businessmen in the country to take active measures to help improve the living standards of poor Catholics.
“It is time for Catholic businessmen to look beyond their own welfare and see the reality of life around them. There are many Catholics who need to be freed from poverty,” the prelate said.
His appeal came during his homily yesterday at a Holy Mass to open the 2nd National Meeting of Catholic Professionals and Businessmen (PUKAT) at Christ the King Cathedral in Kupang, capital of East Nusa Tenggara province.
The meeting, which is being held at the governor’s house and attended by about 200 Catholic professionals and businessmen from Denpasar, Jakarta, Kupang, Makassar and Surabaya, ends on August 9.
“Showing concern and making promises are not enough. You must act,” he said.
He suggested the businessmen pay particular attention to education and health issues.
“These areas are not only the responsibility of the government and the Church,” he added.
Archbishop Turang later expressed hope that the three-day meeting will encourage the businessmen to play a significant role in national development efforts.
Mikhael Utama, who heads PUKAT, responded by saying the association will do what it can.
“We will try and provide more employment opportunities,” he said, adding that association members will also offer scholarships to qualified students from poor families.