Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Indonesia: Authorities Shut Down Construction of Seminary

Indonesian Christians in the West Java City of Bogor gather in the street to pray in protest of government actions that have closed their churches.

From the Rome-based Zenit news agency, we receive the following distressing report that plans for the construction of a seminary in rural Indonesia have been halted due to anti-Christian prejudices in that predominantly Muslim county.

The seminary was to be the first for Pangkalpinang Diocese in the capital of Bangka-Belitung. province. Local leaders claim that pressure from the region's Muslim population has led to the delay. Islam is the dominant religion in Indonesia, which has an 86.1% Muslim population; only 3% are Roman Catholic.

Following a standoff with authorities that has already seen the proposed site of the building move to a neighboring village, a member of the construction committee, Father Fenansius Marianus Manse, said there was no legal basis for the delay. "We submitted all necessary requirements to the district administration in early March but we haven’t obtained a building permit yet," he said.

Authorities have since asked the committee for the Mario John Boen Minor Seminary to submit a recommendation from the district’s Interfaith Harmony Forum (FKUB) and an environmental review of plans for the two-hectare plot in Mangkol Village.

"That is ridiculous," said Father Manse, explaining that an FKUB recommendation is only necessary for a place of worship, while an environmental review does not apply on a plot of less than five hectares.

"Indonesian law states a building application for a seminary must meet 10 requirements including recommendations from the village head and residents, all of which are in place," said the priest. The seminary building, which would be the first of its kind in Pangkalpinang Diocese, has faced problems ever since a building committee was formed in March 2010.
Father Manse said residents in Air Mesu and Cambai villages, central Bangka district, joined the district administration in rejecting their proposal, events which prompted the decision to move the site to Mangkol Village. Muslims from other villages have also protested against the new plan since April, he said, claiming they had been influenced by several Islamic organizations in the region.

Theophilus Bela, secretary general of the Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace, said the district administration had been left powerless in facing these organizations. "We can see that the committee has completed all the requirements," he said. The district head Erzaldi Roesman has asked for more time to resolve the problem.

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