Jakarta. Bogor’s GKI Yasmin, a protestant congregation exiled from its own church following a campaign by local Muslim hard-liners in 2010, has asked police to secure its Christmas service.
The congregation has been forced to hold prayers in makeshift venues — including outside the State Palace — since its church permit was revoked by the Bogor municipality four years ago.
This year, the congregation plans to hold its Christmas service on the sidewalk outside the church, which is still shuttered, following Bogor Mayor Bima Arya Sugiarto's refusal to open the venue.
Speaking at National Police headquarters on Wednesday, the group's legal adviser, Jayadi Damanik, asked the police for protection.
"Today we, with the Advocation Network for Religious Freedom, ask for a legal protection from the National Police so citizens like us can celebrate the upcoming Christmas," he said.
Jayadi said the congregation needed protection as groups had tried to disrupt past services.
"Officials can conduct preventive action, that's what we ask for," he said.
"Beside GKI Yasmin, there are HKBP Philadelphia in Bekasi and an unexposed congregation in Cianjur who cannot celebrate Christmas."
The plight of the church was virtually ignored by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been criticized for not doing enough to halt persecution of Indonesia's religions minorities. But the group is hoping for more compassion from President Joko Widodo.
"If there have been shortages in the past, now it's time to make things better," Jayadi said.
"The Supreme Court has given GKI Yasmin and HKBP Philadelphia legal status, saying that we can lawfully use the location."
"But the Bogor and Bekasi City administrations are not willing to follow up the ruling. They are unwilling to do so."
The congregation obtained a permit to open the church in 2006, but it was promptly revoked by the municipality, at the behest of Muslim-majority local residents and hard-line groups.
Two Supreme Court orders, however, have affirmed the permit.
Mayor Bima said last week he would not carry out the Supreme Court order to reopen the church, citing unspecified “strong reasons” for flouting the verdict from the highest court in the land.