Christian group in Indonesia finally allowed to build church after 15 years

The mayor of the city of Bogor said the development proves that Indonesia “guarantee(s) religious freedom"

A Christian group in the city of Bogor, south of Jakarta in Indonesia, was finally granted a piece of land to build a church 15 years after the congregation was denied a place to worship.

The city’s mayor has announced that the Yasmin Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI), or Indonesian Christian Church, has been granted a piece of land to build a church.

Bogor Mayor Bima Arya met with leaders of the Christian congregation early this week to hand over the land grant documents.

He promised that he would soon issue a building permit to allow the construction of a new church on a 1,668-square-meter piece of land.

The mayor said the conflict between the Christian group and various Muslim organizations in the area over a place to build the church has been resolved.

Mayor Bima also said city officials will guard the construction process until completion and make sure that churchgoers can worship safely in the building.

“It’s been a long journey up to this stage, involving at least 30 major formal meetings and more than 100 informal meetings in our efforts to reach a binding solution,” said the mayor.

He said the granting of a place to worship proves that the government “guarantee(s) religious freedom for our brothers and sisters of the GKI congregation.”

“This is a victory for Yasmin Church, although some people also view this as a compromise,” said the religious rights group International Christian Concern in a report.

The group said the dispute between the Church and the city has become one of the most renowned denials of freedom of religious expression in Indonesia.

The pastor of Yasmin Church, Tri Santoso, has expressed gratitude that the dispute is coming to an end.

“This represents the state being there for the Christians of Bogor so we can now worship in peace,” he said

The Bogor chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council, which is the highest Islamic body in Indonesia, welcomed the land donation.

“Those who caused unrest do not have Bogor DNA, I’m sure,” said chapter chairman Mustofa Abdullah.

The Christian group began building a church on Jalan Abdullah bin Nuh in the West Java town in 2007 but met opposition from various Muslim groups.

The government was later forced to revoke the permit to build the church to avoid conflict. A protracted legal battle ensued between the congregation and the city government.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of GKI, but Bogor officials refused to grant a permit for the church, claiming that the mostly Muslim residents are uncomfortable with a church in their community.

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