Religious conflict worsens with regulation on houses of worship in W. Java

Religious conflict worsens with regulation on houses of worship in W. Java
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) says the current regulation on building houses of worship contributes to religious conflict.

Komnas HAM Freedom of Religion and Faith desk coordinator Jayadi Damanik said the commission recorded 81 cases of violence and intimidation related to freedom of religion and faith in West Java last year.

"Most of the cases are related to the construction of houses of worship," said Jayadi on Tuesday evening.

To prevent further conflict, he said Komnas HAM conducted a special survey on the draft law in line with a request from the religious affairs minister.

The bill is expected to be a better reference on regulations for building houses of worship, and should foster a greater compliance with international human rights norms.

"However, articles 12 to 20 of the bill on the protection of religious communities is just copied and pasted from the joint ministerial decree on the building of houses of worship. Should the bill pass into law with its contents neither improved nor revised, the weaknesses of the joint ministerial regulation would simply be passed into the law," said Jayadi.

The regulation stipulates that before establishing a house of worship a recommendation is needed from the local Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB).

Komnas HAM received information that the institution instead often served as a brokerage in the construction of houses of worship.

"Moreover, applying for permits for the establishment of houses of worship is very bureaucratic, involving the neighborhood unit, community unit, FKUB and regional head," said Jayadi.

Komnas HAM commissioner M. Imdadun Rahmat said freedom to choose, embrace and believe in a religion or faith was the right of every citizen and should not be infringed upon in any circumstances.

"Non-discrimination must be applied and there should be no limit to the right to practice a religion. The state should support them all," added Imdadun.

Meanwhile, Ajat S. Natalegawa, a representative of the Bandung National Unity, Politics and Community Protection Agency, said his agency was currently handling five cases involving the construction of houses of worship. "We won't hamper the projects as long as the rules are followed," said Ajat.

He said the municipality had also approved applications for 26 houses of worship: 24 churches and two temples in compliance with the joint ministerial regulation.

"Among the problems we encountered in the field were applicants who delegated the permit application process to other people who might not report the real situation," said Ajat.

Meanwhile, Overlin Hia from the Cianjur Church Cooperation Agency said the ministerial regulation caused trouble for seven churches.

"For example, a church established in 1997, was later closed. Permits for five churches have not yet been issued since [the application process began in] 2013," said Overlin.

According to the Wahid Institute's annual report last year, West Java ranked first for intolerance and violation of religious freedom. The GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, the Filadelfia church in Bekasi, as well as violence against Ahmadiyah followers in several places in the province, were among unsettled problems that put West Java in first place for religious intolerance.

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