Court Reverses Revocation of Indonesian Church’s Building Permit

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Court Reverses Revocation of Indonesian Church’s Building Permit

A court in West Java, Indonesia, has reversed the revocation
of a Catholic church’s building permit.

The Purwakarta regency government had revoked the
building permit for Santa Maria Catholic Church when Islamists threatened local
residents and officials into opposing the project, church leaders said.

The church sued
the Purwakarta regency for revoking the approved building permit in Cinangka
village last October, and in a little-publicized court ruling on Feb. 25, a
judge in a state court in Bandung, West Java decided in favor of the church.

“The error arose when
external forces pressured the Purwakarta government so much that it revoked the
building permit,” the head of the church legal team, Dr. Liona Nanang, told
Compass. “Government sources have admitted that this was done because of outside

The church official
said objections to the church under construction did not come from residents of
Cinangka village, where the church is located.

“We called the village
headman and the block captains to testify,” Nanang said. “According to them, the
objections are not from Cinangka villagers, but from citizens of Cikampek, which
is not even in our district [county].”

The Purwakarta
government is planning to appeal the case, but Nanang said church lawyers are
optimistic that construction likely would resume once the High Court in Jakarta

On Oct. 16 the regent
of Purwakarta regency, Dedi Mulyadi, revoked the construction permit after
Islamists threatened some of the local residents whose approval is required by
Indonesian law. Church leaders said members of the Islamic Defenders Front
Pembela Islam
, or FPI)
“continually terrorized” both the regent and residents who had previously given
their approval.

A Joint Ministerial
Decree promulgated in 1969 and revised in 2006 requires the permission of more
than 60 neighbors and a permit from local authorities to establish a place of
worship. The more than 60 local citizens giving their approval must provide
photocopies of their identity cards.

Nanang said that the
judge agreed with the plaintiff that there had not been any irregularities in
the process of obtaining a building permit. The judge found that the Purwakarta
government had violated basic principles of good government including justice
and the rule of law.

“A building permit can
be legally cancelled if there is no construction activity within six months of
the date of publication of the permit,” Liona told
Compass. “However,
Santa Maria Church began to build immediately.”

The court also ruled
that the Purwakarta government had no legal reason to revoke the building
permit. The Joint Ministerial Decree Number requires not only a minimum of 60
signatures of those not using the building but a minimum of 90 signatures of
those who will use it, and the church had obtained the signatures of 93
non-users and 170 church members who would use the building.

The Rev. Augustinus
Made of Santa Maria Catholic Church concurred that revocation of the building
permit came about from extremely heavy pressure from the FPI and other radical
Muslim groups.

“We rejoice in the
verdict,” he said. “We had fulfilled all of the regulations. We built on land
that had been zoned for a house of worship – land that we

At the time the
building permit was revoked, land had been prepared, the area fenced and the
foundation laid.

The church had planned
its building on a 5,000-square meter lot in a sparsely populated industrial area
on land zoned for houses of worship. The congregation of over 1,000 has been
worshipping in a steel factory warehouse some distance from the building site
since its inception in 2002.

The lot developer had
supplied facilities for all faiths; Muslims have two large mosques and an
Islamic chapel at each factory. The government plan for the Bukit Indah
Industrial Park included facilities for general and social purposes, including
places of worship.

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