JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – More than 500 people in Jambi have been left without a place of worship after authorities sealed three churches, citing objections from residents in this majority-Muslim area, in violation of their human right to freedom of religion, Amnesty International said today.
On Sept. 27, the Jambi City Administration moved to seal the Kanaan Methodist Church, the Simpang Rimbo Assemblies of God Church and the Huria Kristen Indonesia Church, calling it a “preventive measure.”
“The local administration has justified this so-called ‘preventive’ policy on the grounds that the churches have no proper permit. However, these churches have been there for years and have applied for permits, which local authorities never respond to. Now hundreds of worshippers have no appropriate venue to go for Sunday mass and other religious activities,” Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid said.
“The move clearly violates Indonesia’s international legal obligation to respect and protect the human right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It is also clearly discriminatory, targeting a minority religious community and depriving it of places of worship. The act should be reversed immediately – and instead, authorities should make sure these hundreds of people can attend their churches freely and safely” Usman Hamid added.
Speaking to Amnesty International Indonesia on Oct. 1, a spokesman for the Kanaan Methodist Church said that members of his congregation hoped that the central government and local authorities in Jambi would move to unseal the three churches before next week’s Sunday prayers.
“There must be a solution to solve this case soon because we have the right to perform prayers at our church. Last Sunday we performed our prayers in the church yard. We hope that this upcoming Sunday we could perform prayers in our church, no longer outside,” he said.
Hamid further said that the church closures in Jambi stand in stark contrast to President Joko Widodo’s campaign pledge, in 2014, to protect minority groups in the country.
“The Jambi closures add to the long list of churches that have been sealed in recent years. It should serve as a wake-up call for Joko Widodo: his administration should live up to the promises it was elected for and its international human rights obligations,” Usman Hamid said.
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