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Gunmen fire on Indonesian church building in latest attack

Country/Region: South and East Asia, Indonesia

Gunmen fired on an Indonesian church in the latest attack on the building, which has been illegally sealed off by the authorities since 2008.

Indonesian Constitutional Court
The plight of GKI Yasmin has been taken to the Constitutional Court
CC BY 3.0 / Wsaragih

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.

 

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