Vigilante group seals off Santa Clara church and demands cancellation of its permit

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding a vigilante group sealing off the Santa Clara Church in Bekasi, West Java province, Indonesia. Despite the congregation having fulfilled all legal requirements to build a Church, the vigilante group has demanded the Bekasi Mayor cancel the Church’s official permit. The police have taken no action against the vigilantes, leaving the Santa Clara congregants in fear and uncertainty.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On 7 March 2016, the Santa Clara church was established on 5,000 m2 of land in Harapan Baru, Bekasi city. After the establishment of the Church, intolerant vigilantes, who call themselves the Islamic Forum Community (FUI), demanded the Bekasi Mayor to cancel the permit given to the Church. The group declared that the Church is established in North Bekasi city, where the majority of the community is Muslim, and where Islamic Boarding Schools (pesantren) also exist. The vigilantes thus destroyed the signboard of the church and sealed off the Church in front of the North Bekasi police commander (Kapolsek).

Earlier, the Bekasi city mayor emphasized that he will not annul the permit given to the Church, which has fulfilled all legal requirements. The minister of religion also supported the mayor’s decision.

Despite this, law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the Santa Clara Church congregants; in fact, it seems the agencies have no will or policy to enforce the law against vigilantes. As a result, the Church congregation lives under pressure and intimidation. The FUI also accused that the Bekasi city officials falsified local community identity cards, which are one of the requirements to issue a permit. The accusation cannot be proved as the local community voluntary gave their identity cards to the Bekasi mayor in order to issue permit to the Church.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

In the last decade, the existent of intolerant vigilante groups has become a serious problem in Indonesia. More importantly, the country’s law enforcement does not seem to be willing or committed to enforcing the law against such groups, despite their actions being in violation of the right to freedom of religion and belief guaranteed in the 1945 Indonesian Constitution. Article 29, Paragraph 2 requires the State to “ensure the freedom of every citizen to choose their own religion and to worship according to their religion and belief itself”.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the authorities listed below, asking them to ensure that the police take a strong stance against the vigilantes, and ensure that the government protects the Santa Clara congregation’s right to practice their religion.

The AHRC will also be writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of religion or belief calling for his intervention into this matter.

Source: Humain Rights