Bekasi. Congregation members from the embattled Huria Kristen Batak Protestan Setu Church in Bekasi have refused to dismantle their place of worship after the local government ordered them to shut down last week.
“We’re firm, we won’t dismantle the temple of God that we have built,” said Torang Simanjuntak, the pastor at the church known as HKBP, on Thursday.
The Bekasi district government sealed the church on March 7, after the local public order agency (Satpol PP) claimed that the church did not hold the necessary building permit.
Dikdik Jasmeda Astra, head of the Bekasi Satpol PP, said that he had given the church seven days to dismantle it.
“If until the deadline, it has not been dismantled, we will do it,” Dikdik said.
Torang said that it was up to the government to decide what they would do with the church, adding that the congregation would not “dismantle our own house of worship.”
Leonard Nababan, another HKBP Setu pastor, argued that the church had been trying to obtain a permit from the authorities since 2011.
“We’ve complied with all the requirements for the process, from the neighborhood up to the subdistrict level,” Leonard said. “In fact, the local residents have even signed their approval for us to get the permit.”
Leonard called on the authorities to resolve the matter by quickly issuing the permit needed by the congregation.
Benny Saputra, the subdistrict chief, promised to make a decision on whether the church would be issued a permit by the end of the month.
The HKBP Setu congregation is the latest Christian group in West Java to face opposition from locals over their presence in largely Muslim communities.
Also in Bekasi, the HKBP Filadelfia congregation has been forced to worship on the street outside its church or in members’ homes since 2007, as the district administration continues to deny it a permit.