Bekasi district head Neneng Hasanah Yasin has asked members of the HKBP Filadelfia church to “cool down” and conduct worship at a location provided by the local government.
“In the latest meeting with the district head and the Bekasi Police chief mediated by the National Commission on Human Rights [Komnas HAM], the district head told us to cool down,” the lawyer for HKBP Filadelfia, Saor Siagian, told BeritaSatu on Tuesday. “The district head requested some time to inform people and we really understand that.”
Saor said the church members were advised to abide by the government’s plan to move their worship services to a building provided by the local administration to prevent further altercations with local residents.
“Worship will still continue, as it should not be abandoned,” Saor said. “We will conduct the worship at PGRI building, which was chosen by the government to prevent threats.”
Saor said the church still expects the Bekasi administration to implement a Supreme Court ruling handed down last year.
“We will wait to meet with the district head again and [ask her] to do what has been agreed, that the court ruling should be implemented,” he said. “The court has decided that the government should reopen the church and give the congregation members of Filadelfia a permit to worship. We hope to meet in the coming weeks so there will be certainty for us to have a permanent [house of] worship.”
The church submitted an application for a building permit in 2007, but despite meeting all the requirements, including the permission of its neighbors, a permit was not issued. Instead, in 2009, Neneng issued a letter banning members of the congregation from worshiping on the designated church land, forcing the 560 members to hold services on the side of the road fronting the property. On Jan. 12, 2010, local authorities sealed the building.
Local residents in Bekasi began regularly protesting against the church in January of this year, several months after the Supreme Court overturned the district government’s decision to deny the church a building permit. Recently, the protests have included physical violence and intimidation tactics directed at the churchgoers. At an Ascension Day service last month, residents threw stones, bags of urine and rotten eggs at the congregation members.